Suppose you have already gone through the difficult ordeal of a contested family law case: You separated from your spouse or common-law partner, consulted a lawyer who advised you that you were entitled to receive spousal support from your ex, went to various settlement conferences, meetings, and eventually court, where a judge decided that your ex was required to pay you a certain amount of support every month for several years. Would that mean that, having finally freed yourself from a difficult relationship, you now had to try to make your ex pay you every month? Fortunately not.
In British Columbia, enforcement of court orders where spousal or child support payments must be made, as well as filed agreements to pay support, is handled by the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP). Once you have your court order or filed agreement, you can enrol in FMEP free of charge by filling out the application form found on their website and providing them with a copy of the order or filed agreement.
If someone ordered to pay support does not make their payments, FMEP tries to contact them and work with them to develop a plan to do so. If that fails however, they can take a number of steps to enforce payment, including garnishing their wages, bank accounts or EI payments or placing a lien on their real estate or personal property. They are even able to prevent a payor from being able to renew their driver’s license or obtain a passport.
Not only can FMEP enforce support payments, but they can act as an intermediary between the parties and administer and track the payments coming from the payor and going to the recipient. I would always advise both parties to have payments flow through FMEP, as dealing with your ex about money is a recipe for conflict.