Note: this is general information only. Obtain legal advice for your particular circumstances.

There are many people out there that are obligated to pay child or spousal support pursuant to a written agreement or court order, but are being laid off or their hours at work reduced. Orders and agreements are based on what the Payor’s “guideline” income is at the time the order or agreement is made in anticipation that the Payor’s will continue to earn the same amount of income. This is subject to a material change in circumstances which includes a reduction in income due to loss or reduction of employment.

If a Payor’s income decreases because of job loss or reduced work for the foreseeable future, then the parties should try to come to an agreement that reflects the Payor’s income. If the Recipient of support refuses to agree to reduce support, then out of court options can be proposed like mediation. But if that still does not work, the question becomes what does the Payor do? Moreover, if the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (“FMEP”) is enforcing the order or agreement, what will they do?

FMEP will continue to enforce payment of support. However, FMEP is modifying their approach as a result of COVID-19 and the challenges that Payor’s are facing. But that does not mean that they will not enfore. FMEP has stopped the following types of enforcement:

  • Issuing any new Credit Reports to credit reporting agencies
  • Issuing any Default Fees for missed or late payments
  • Proceeding with Driver’s Licence Cancellations

FMEP will also NOT collect Canada Emergency Response Benefits (“CERB”) that a Payor may be receiving.

It is anticipated that FMEP will be flexible holding back other enforcement based on voluntary payment agreements with the Payor.

The problem is what of the arrears or the amount adding up that is owed under the agreement or order? One would reasonably expect that a delay in bringing an application to change the amount of support while the court has limited operations is a reasonable one that would not jeopardize a Payor’s argument to cancel or reduce arrears of support later on. But there is no guarantee. Worse is if there is FMEP enforcement and the Recipient will not agree to a reduction of support then the Payor is likely in the need of bringing an application to court to change the support to an amount that accords with the Payor’s income. Whether this is considered an “urgent” application that the court will hear depends on the circumstances of the case.

So, much of this depends on the reasonableness of the parties (the Payor and Recipient) and being transparent with information regarding the change in income (for example proof like a Record of Employment, employment pay stub, or letter from employer, etc). If, and when, there is a return to work or normal hours, the Payor should inform the Recipient immediately and be transparent with information.

These are difficult times navigating through these types of issues. We are here to help either represent individuals struggling with these issues or mediate between the parties.

For more information on what FMEP is doing go to:

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