What kind of action can the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) take to enforce payments?
Many payors will never fall behind in their payments and enforcement action against them will never be necessary.
If a payor falls into arrears and enforcement is necessary, federal and provincial laws give the FMEP the authority to use a number of measures, depending on how much money is owing, and what the FMEP knows about the payor's current situation.
To enforce payment of a support order, the FMEP can:
- Require anyone who owes the payor money to pay it directly to the FMEP. This is called “attaching” income, and may be applied to virtually any income, including wages, pensions, income tax refunds or GST credits, workers' compensation benefits or rental income. The FMEP may also attach bank accounts or other assets.
- Register a lien against any land or personal property a payor may own (including a car, boat, trailer, or manufactured home).
- Obtain a court order to seize the payor's personal property and arrange for the sale of that property if the payor does not pay the arrears.
- Bring the case to court for a judge to decide on any additional enforcement action.
The FMEP can also take these enforcement actions:
- If the payor is more than $2,000 in arrears, the FMEP can report the payor to a credit bureau. This may affect the payor's ability to qualify for a credit card or take out a loan.
- If the payor is more than $3,000 in arrears, the FMEP can:
- Instruct ICBC to refuse to issue or renew the payor's driver's licence and/or motor vehicle licence, and/or
- Ask the federal government to suspend, refuse to issue or renew the payor's passport and/or federal aviation or marine licence
- If the payor is $10,000 or more in arrears, the FMEP can:
- Intercept BCLC lottery winnings
- If the payor owns all or a major part of a corporation, the payor's corporation can be made liable for the payor's maintenance payments.
In addition to these enforcement actions, if the payor misses or is late on two payments within the same calendar year, the FMEP will automatically charge the payor a Default Fee.
The Default Fee is equal to one month's support, up to a maximum of $400. The fee goes to the B.C. government, not to the recipient, to help the government cover the costs of operating the program.
The FMEP also charges payors interest on the current balance of unpaid maintenance and adds the interest to its records at the end of each month. All interest goes to recipients.