Family Maintenance Services

Overview

If a client would like ministry help with obtaining or defending a maintenance order or written agreement, the client may request family maintenance services and assign their maintenance rights to the ministry if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • The client is in active receipt of income, hardship or disability assistance
  • The client is requesting help with obtaining or defending an order or agreement for child and/or spousal support
  • The client does not already have an order or agreement for child support for all children in the family or for spousal support or is defending an application for variation of a maintenance order or agreement
  • The client identifies the potential payor(s) of support and knows that the payor(s) resides in B.C.
  • The client has information indicating that the payor receives more than the Child Support Guidelines minimum of $10,280 in income per year

Clients may contact the ministry at any time to request a new referral for help with obtaining or defending an order or agreement. 

Existing clients have the option to cancel their assignment at any time by providing written notice to the ministry.

Clients may choose to enrol their maintenance order with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) or may choose to withdraw from this service by contacting FMEP.  FMEP, operated under the Ministry of Justice, monitors and enforces maintenance orders belonging to recipients of assistance [see Contacts].

Policy

September 1, 2015

For the purposes of administering family maintenance services, a spouse includes a former spouse.

September 1, 2015

Clients may be eligible for the following services:
 

  • Case and safety assessment (e.g., safety and viability of obtaining an order)
  • Financial assessment
  • Establishing quantum
  • Negotiating an agreement or consent order
  • Pursuing court action for maintenance order
  • Defending a respondent’s application to vary an order
  • Adding a new child to an existing maintenance order
  • Obtaining spousal agreement or order
  • Pursuing paternity or DNA testing

September 1, 2015

Clients are responsible for the following family maintenance services
 

  • Pursuing an application to vary an order where respondent’s circumstances have improved
  • Registering an agreement or an order with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program
  • Requesting services through the Inter-jurisdictional Support Order Program when the potential payor resides outside of BC

Client may access other service with the Ministry of Justice – Family Justice Programs and Resources (see Additional Resources).

September 1, 2015

If a client would like ministry help in obtaining or defending a maintenance order or written agreement, the client may receive family maintenance services by assigning their maintenance rights to the ministry if they meet all of the following criteria:
 

  • The client is in active receipt of income, hardship or disability assistance
  • The client is requesting help with obtaining or defending an order or agreement for child and/or spousal support
  • The client does not already have an order or agreement for child support for all children in the family or for spousal support or is defending an application for variation of a maintenance order or agreement
  • The client identifies the potential payor(s) of support and knows that the payor(s) resides in B.C.
  • The client has information indicating that the payor receives more than the Child Support Guidelines minimum of $10,280 in income per year

A client is considered to already have an order if they have an interim order, unless the interim order has an imminent expiry or court date.

September 1, 2015

A client may apply to the court to update an order if the respondent’s circumstances have improved, but is not eligible to receive ministry family maintenance services in order to do so.

A client may be eligible for ministry family maintenance services if an order is being varied to add a new child to the order.

If a client is served with an application to change or vary their existing order, the client may request ministry help to defend the order.

 

Interjurisdictional Support Orders (ISO)

September 1, 2015

The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO) [see Additional Resources] is the BC law governing reciprocity.  Each of the reciprocating jurisdictions has very similar ISO laws.  Using ISO, individuals can apply for a support order or apply to change an existing support order in one of the reciprocating jurisdictions without having to go there.  The person making the application does not usually have to go to court – the respondent (the person in the reciprocating jurisdiction) goes to court to respond to the application.

For information on applying for a support order in a province, territory or country that has a reciprocal agreement with BC, clients can contact a Justice Access Centre for information or talk to a lawyer to change their order [see Contacts].

September 1, 2015

Maintenance may include any of the following:
 

  • expenses arising from and incidental to the prenatal care of a mother or child, or the birth of a child
  • the cost of tests for paternity
  • an amount payable to a corporation with only the debtor as shareholder, or by a debtor who has failed to comply with an order
  • fixed costs awarded under the regulations in favour of the director or a creditor
  • taxed costs awarded in relation to anything that comes within this definition
  • prescribed fees or expenses
  • interest that is or may be imposed

September 1, 2015

If a client would like help from the ministry in obtaining a maintenance order or written agreement, the client may assign their maintenance rights to the ministry in order to receive help, if they meet the criteria [see Policy – Referral Eligibility Criteria]. 

When maintenance rights are assigned, the government has the right to act on the client’s behalf to do any of the following:
 

  • apply for a maintenance order
  • enter into a maintenance agreement
  • defend an application for variation of a maintenance agreement or order, including orders or written agreements that are registered with the Child Support Recalculation Service

The ministry legal representative must explain the content of the Assignment of Maintenance Rights (HR2748) to the client.

The HR2748 outlines the maintenance rights being assigned and the terms of the assignment.  The assignor signs the first section and initials on the front of the form that they have read the Terms of the Assignment.

Notice of Assignment

Before the ministry (represented by the ministry legal representative) may take any steps to act upon its maintenance rights, written notice must be sent to the respondent to advise them of the client’s assigned maintenance rights.

If the respondent has made any application to change, rescind, or suspend a maintenance order, or to reduce or cancel arrears of payments under a maintenance order, the respondent must promptly provide the ministry legal representative with a copy of their application.

Failure to Comply with the Terms of the Assignment

If a client fails to comply with the terms of an assignment, the ministry (represented by the ministry legal representative) may cancel the assignment and stop any maintenance action underway.

End of Assignment

The assignment ends when any of the following occur:
 

  • a client’s assistance case closes or changes to Medical Services Only or Transitional Health Services
  • when the ministry (represented by the ministry legal representative) notifies the client in writing that the assignment has ended
  • when the ministry or ministry legal representative receives and processes written notice from the client that they wish to end the assignment.

Notice to Respondent when the Assignment is no Longer in Effect

The ministry (represented by the ministry legal representative) will send the respondent written notice of the Assignment when any of the following occur:
 

  • the recipient has been provided written notice of the termination of the Assignment
  • the ministry or the ministry legal representative receives and processes the recipient’s written notice to terminate the assignment
  • the recipient’s assistance case closes or the case changes to Medical Services Only or Transitional Health Services.

September 1, 2015

Once referred for family maintenance services, clients can expect the ministry legal representative to review the family maintenance criteria and inquire about the applicant’s family status and whether the applicant has any safety concerns before making contact with the respondent to pursue maintenance. Safety concerns are identified as behaviours that may lead to harm or that cause or have caused harm to one or more of the parties.

Family maintenance service includes a safety assessment.  When no safety concerns are evident the ministry legal representative proceeds with appropriate maintenance action.

When the ministry legal representative does not want to proceed due to high risk, family maintenance services are discontinued and the assignment is terminated.  

September 1, 2015

The client’s family maintenance services may be terminated by the ministry and/or the ministry legal representative when:
 

  • the client is no longer in active receipt of income, hardship or disability assistance
  • safety concerns are identified by the client, the ministry and/or the ministry legal representative
  • clients do not cooperate or attend hearings
  • a legal opinion advises against pursuing

Procedures

September 1, 2015

When a client requests family maintenance services, the EAW completes the Family Maintenance Questionnaire and Referral form (HR3033A) with the client.

The purpose of the Family Maintenance Questionnaire and Referral form (HR3033A) is to assist Employment and Assistance Workers (EAWs) to:
 

  1. determine whether a client meets the referral criteria for family maintenance services;
  2. refer an eligible client to ministry legal representative; and
  3. provide an eligible client with this form as verification of eligibility for referral for services to present to the ministry legal representative; or
  4. provide the client with written notice why they do not meet the criteria for a referral.

If the client is eligible for a family maintenance services referral, the EAW also provides the client the Assignment of Maintenance Rights (HR2748) form. The client must provide the HR3033A and signed and initialed HR2748 forms to the ministry legal representative at their first appointment.

[For information on supplementary assistance available for expenses related to ministry family maintenance services (including transportation, child care and living costs for court hearings, transportation and living costs for mandatory DNA testing), see Related Links – Moving, Transportation and Living Costs Supplement.]

 

Obtaining a Maintenance Order or Agreement

September 1, 2015

Once an order has been obtained through family maintenance services, the ministry legal representative provides a copy to the client.

The client must submit a copy of the order to the ministry with their next monthly report.  Ministry staff should profile a copy to the Employment and Assistance case.

September 1, 2015

Once an agreement has been obtained through family maintenance services, the ministry legal representative provides a copy to the client.

The client must submit a copy of the agreement to the ministry with their next monthly report.  Ministry staff should profile a copy to the Employment and Assistance case.

 

Ministry of Justice – Family Justice Programs and Resources

September 1, 2015

Maintenance Enforcement and Locate Services

This service of the Justice Services Branch of the Ministry of Justice has the authority to access provincial agencies to find both the home and work addresses of missing respondents.  If the case involves enforcement of a court order, the search service has the authority to search federal data banks.  The search must be initiated by an authorized agency (that is, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program or BC Family Court Registry).  For more information, see Maintenance Enforcement and Locate Services [see Additional Resources].

Family Justice Counsellors

The mandate of Family Justice Counsellors (FJCs) is to assist separating or divorced couples in resolving conflict on issues pertaining to child custody, access, and maintenance.  FJCs do not have a mandate to pursue maintenance for BCEA recipients who have assigned their maintenance rights to the government.  For more information, see Family Justice Counsellors [see Additional Resources] on the Ministry of Justice Internet site.

Child Support Recalculation Service

The Child Support Recalculation Service (CSRS) is a pilot project under the Ministry of Justice that has a mandate to review all child support orders annually.  The CSRS includes clients who have assigned their maintenance rights to the government. The Recalculation Officer reviews and recalculates child support orders registered with the CSRS.

Comprehensive Child Support Service

In the Vancouver, Surrey, and Kelowna jurisdictional areas, Child Support Officers help individuals find out more about child support and obtaining or changing a child support order or agreement.  This service is also offered to payors who have experienced a change in circumstances that prevent them from meeting payment obligations under a court order for family maintenance.  For more information, see Child Support on the Ministry of Justice Internet site [see Contacts].

Family Maintenance Enforcement Program

The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) is a maintenance collection service of the Ministry of Justice.  FMEP operates on a pay-through model.  Payors are required to send maintenance payments to FMEP.  FMEP receives, calculates, records, and forwards payments to recipients.  If maintenance payments fall into arrears, FMEP has legislative authority to proceed with alternate methods of collecting the outstanding amounts.  [For more information, see Additional Resources – Family Maintenance Enforcement Program and Ministry of Justice.]

Interjurisdictional Support Orders

British Columbia has reciprocal agreements with all the Canadian provinces and territories, and with several foreign countries.  These are “reciprocating jurisdictions”.  This means that BC and each of the reciprocating jurisdictions have agreed to recognize the family support (maintenance) orders and written agreements made in the other place.  An order or written agreement made in one place is ‘good’ in the other.

The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO) [see Additional Resources] is the BC law governing reciprocity.  Each of the reciprocating jurisdictions has very similar ISO laws.  Using ISO, individuals can apply for a support order or apply to change an existing support order in one of the reciprocating jurisdictions without having to go there.  A person in one of the reciprocating jurisdictions can do the same thing.  The person making the application does not usually have to go to court – the respondent (the person in the reciprocating jurisdiction) goes to court to respond to the application.

For information on applying for a support order in a province, territory or country that has a reciprocal agreement with BC, clients can contact a Family Justice Centre for information or talk to a lawyer to change their order.

Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of BC

The Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of BC (NCCABC) [see Additional Resources] may also be able to help with legal information for persons of aboriginal descent.

Authorities and Responsibilities

September 1, 2015

Employment Assistance Worker (EAW) is responsible for:

  • providing information about family maintenance services to potential clients
  • administering the Family Maintenance Questionnaire and Referral form (HR3033A) to determine if the client meets the criteria for a referral
  • explaining and providing the client with the Voluntary Assignment of Maintenance Rights (HR2748)
  • referring eligible clients to the ministry legal representative
  • if a client does not meet the criteria for a referral, provide the HR3033A which confirms the reasons why they did not meet the referral criteria

Ministry Legal Representative is responsible for:

  • determining eligibility for services (criteria, feasibility of pursuing, safety concerns, etc)
  • explaining Voluntary Assignment of Maintenance Rights (HR2748)
  • pursuing action to obtain or defend family maintenance support orders
  • requesting and receiving instruction from ministry representatives
  • providing written rationale for decisions where services are not provided

 Frequently Asked Questions

 

Question   What if the client discloses the other party threatens the client or the client’s child(ren)?

Answer   Tell the client to contact the police immediately.

 

Question   What happens if clients do not assign their rights?

Answer   There is no requirement to assign maintenance rights unless the client wishes to receive family maintenance services and meets the referral criteria. Clients who do not assign their rights cannot receive ministry assistance to obtain an order or agreement for child and/or spousal support.

 

Question   What if the other parent pays the client on a regular basis without a legal order or filed written agreement?

Answer   The client must continue to declare child and/or spousal support regardless of whether it is paid on a regular basis or without a legal order or filed written agreement.

 

Question   What if the client already has a legal order or filed written agreement?

Answer   The ministry cannot provide help obtaining a new order or agreement if one already exists.  If the client has a child who has no order or agreement, the ministry may be able to help.  Likewise, if the client is seeking spousal support and has no order or agreement, the ministry may be able to help.

 

Question   What are the Child Support Guidelines?

Answer   They are federal and provincial laws introduced in 1993 that set the amount of child support to be paid, based on the paying parent’s income.