TOP 10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT MAINTENANCE ENFORCEMENT IN ALBERTA
1.) What is the Maintenance Enforcement Program (“MEP”)?
MEP is a government operated collection program. MEP is designed to collect child and spousal/partner support payments pursuant to registered Court Orders or Maintenance Enforcement Agreements. To use MEP you must register using their forms and then send the completed forms to MEP for processing. Once you are registered for the MEP, you will receive a letter confirming you are registered and the debtor/creditor will receive a similar letter as well.
Remember, you cannot accept money directly from the debtor once you are registered with the MEP and if you do, then you must report all monies you received to the MEP. This way the MEP can keep track of what was paid by the debtor and what was received by the creditor.
2.) What does MEP do for creditors and for debtors?
The MEP was designed as a “go between” debtors and creditors. The goal being an impartial government body that could collect payments. Many creditors and debtors find the MEP helpful because you do not need to deal, directly, with the other party. Also, the MEP could record and keep track of all payments made by the debtor and received by the creditor. This way no one has to keep an accounting of what was paid, the amount paid and when it was paid.
3.) Do we have to use MEP?
No, it is not mandatory to register with the MEP. In Alberta, all Court Orders dealing with child or partner/spousal support payments include a term allowing the Court Order to be registered with the MEP. However, if neither the debtor nor the creditor registers with the MEP then there is no need to pay monies to MEP.
4.) How does MEP enforce support payments?
The MEP has “super powers” when collecting support payments. The Maintenance Enforcement Act gives the MEP the power to garnishee monies from an employer, from bank accounts and grab any income tax refunds owed to the debtor without needing an additional Court Order from a Judge. The MEP can also cancel or suspend a driver’s license, cancel or suspend a passport, cancel a vehicle registration and sell property to fulfill the support payment owed by the debtor. It is best to make appropriate payment arrangements with the MEP so all this can be avoided.
A Judge does not have the authority to tell the MEP to stop its enforcement action. A Judge can grant a Court Order dealing with what led to these enforcement measures and then the debtor can make new payment arrangements with the MEP as well as ask that these enforcement measures are removed. It is up to the MEP whether the enforcement measures will be stopped.
5.) What if I cannot afford to pay support?
Yearly reviews and adjustments are the keys to managing support payments.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that debtors and creditors are equally responsible for managing the support payments. You must exchange financial information every year and pursue any adjustments that are needed to update support payments. Support arrears happen most often when parties do not exchange financial information or do not pursue adjustments to support payments in a timely manner. If you cannot afford to pay support, you should contact the MEP and advise of the change in our situation. This way the MEP is aware of your financial difficulties. You should immediately apply to the Court for a change in your support payments so the MEP can enforce the new Court Order’s terms.
6.) Can MEP charge me interest and penalties in addition to my support payment?
Yes, the MEP can charge additional monies as interest and late penalties if support payments are not paid by the due date. Again, a Judge does not have the authority to cancel or reduce the interest or late penalties. The MEP keeps the monies paid for interest and late penalties.
7.) How do I contact an MEP officer?
Visit the MEP Alberta website. You will see their contact information on this site. You may also attend at the MEP’s office located in the Brownlee Building on a drop-in basis. It is quite busy, so be prepared to wait as well as buy enough parking time.
8.) Can we withdraw from MEP?
Yes, you can ask to withdraw from the MEP but there are fees associated with withdrawing. You may want to speak with the MEP about associated fees and what would be involved to register again in the future.
9.) Can MEP enforce Court Orders from other provinces or countries?
Yes, the MEP can enforce Court Orders from other provinces or countries. However, the foreign Court Order must be registered as a Court Order with the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. There is a registration process that must be followed before you can register with the MEP. Resolution and Court Administration Services can assist in answering your questions for free. Visit their website and remember our office is just a consultation away. We can be reached at (780) 761-1070 or via email to email@example.com to book a consultation. Please note there is fee for this consultation.
10.) Can MEP change my support Order or change my monthly payment amount?
No, the MEP can ask you to fill out a change in circumstances form and make temporary arrangements with you. However, you will need a Judge to grant a new Court Order which reflects your current financial situation and adjust the support payments accordingly. You would, then, send a filed copy of this new Court Order to the MEP. This way the MEP can enforce the new Court Order’s terms.
Author: Ms. Ning Ramos, Barrister and Solicitor