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You Down With MEP?

The Alberta Government provides two services that may help the payee and the payor of support in our province. This month, we will look at the pros and cons of one of those services: the Maintenance Enforcement Program.

The Maintenance Enforcement Program (“MEP”) collects, and enforces as needed, court-ordered child support, spousal support and/or partner support.   In order to enforce those support amounts, MEP requires a Maintenance Order, or a Maintenance Agreement that’s filed with the court. This usually takes the form of a Consent Order, an Order from a Judge, or a Divorce Judgement filed in the normal course of proceedings.

We often hear payors voice concern about the inclusion of the – now mandatory – MEP clause in their Support Orders: “I have never missed a payment”; “I always pay my support payments in full and on time”; and “MEP is for delinquent payors, not me, not us”. But, we believe that it is important not to see enrolment in MEP as a punishment, but rather as the right of either party and, perhaps, an incentive to keep payments on time as as conflict free as possible.

While the MEP clause must be included in the Support Order, which permits either the payee OR the payor to register the Order with MEP, the parties may agree not to register their document with MEP. If parties are communicating well, have a good track record of payments, and are comfortable making payments directly, they can decide not to register with MEP, and instead, arrange their ongoing payments as between themselves. For parties in this situation, agreeing to make and receive payments directly is preferred; since, as with most Government agencies, MEP resources are stretched and their attention is best focused on payees who are not receiving their support (rather than overseeing files that are paid on time and in full). In addition, due to the usual monthly administration, a payment received by the payor on the first day of the month may take 1 or 2 days to actually be received by MEP (which could trigger interest costs for the payor) and it may take an additional 3-5 days to reach the payee’s bank account, something that may create budget concerns for both the payor and the payee.    

Of course, either party may change their mind and decide to register their Order in the future; and parties should register, if they are having difficulty receiving payments on time and/or are disputing whether payments were made in accordance with the Order. MEP is useful for parties who have an elevated level of conflict, have difficulty communicating and/or who have trust issues. MEP is a formal record of support owed and paid, protecting both the payee and payor.

One of the most significant benefits of the MEP clause now being automatically included in all Support Orders, is the fact that parties do not have to spend additional time and fees to return to Court for enforcement issues. The MEP is included in the Order so they can simply choose to register their existing Order with MEP and enlist their help now or later. If you would like to check is your Order is enforceable through MEP or would like to work on getting an Order you can enforce, please contact us.

Next month we will review the benefits and possible drawbacks of the Recalculation Program. The second program offered by the Government of Alberta that helps parties update support under very specific circumstances.