Child and spousal support during COVID-19
Information for Payors, Recipients and Employers
During these difficult times, Islanders may be facing a number of hardships, including financial ones due to loss or change of employment. The financial obligations that Islanders have vary from individual to individual, business to business. Supports are available for individuals and businesses.
Island families may also rely on spousal or child support. Children should get the support to which they are entitled. This is even more important during this unprecedented time. The Maintenance Enforcement Program is a neutral program that facilitates these support payments for payers, beneficiaries and employers. The Department of Justice & Public Safety will continue to assist families by carrying out its mandate, which includes the essential service of enforcing family support payments.
I have temporarily lost my job due to COVID-19. Do I still have to pay my support?
If you have lost your job, we recognize you may have difficulty paying your full amount of support due. You are, however, still required by law to pay the support owing under your order or agreement.
If your financial circumstances have changed, the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) may be able to work with you to determine if a temporary arrangement relating to the enforcement of your support order is warranted under our policies.
Contact your Enforcement Officer to discuss options. We understand this is a stressful time for all families and we will make efforts to address MEP users’ needs.
I am receiving Employment Insurance. Will this be garnished?
The Maintenance Enforcement Program has the authority to garnish your EI monies. If your financial circumstances have changed (e.g. if you are receiving EI because you have been laid-off), we may be able to work with you to determine if a temporary arrangement relating to the enforcement of your support order is warranted under our policies. Contact your Enforcement Officer by calling 902-894-0395 to discuss your options.
My work hours have been reduced, can I pay less than what is in my court order?
The Maintenance Enforcement Program does not have the authority to change the court ordered amount of child support a person is obligated to pay. However, if your financial circumstances have changed, we may be able to work with you to determine if a temporary arrangement relating to the enforcement of your support order is warranted under our policies. Contact your Enforcement Officer.
Can I defer my support payments, so that I can the support I owe at a later date?
No, the Maintenance Enforcement Program is unable to defer support payments as these are court-ordered payments. You may wish to look into whether some of your other payments can be deferred (e.g. mortgage, Maritime Electric, loans, etc.) to ease your other financial obligations that are currently due. Contact each lender individually to discuss options.
Will the Maintenance Enforcement Program continue to take enforcement actions against me if I’ve lost my job?
All Maintenance Enforcement files are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. If you have lost your employment and you have no income or less income than you did before, it is important that you speak to your Enforcement Officer. We may be able to work with you to determine if a temporary arrangement relating to the enforcement of your support order is warranted under our policies. Contact your Enforcement Officer.
Can the Maintenance Enforcement Program garnish my Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB)?
No, the CERB is not garnishable to satisfy family support obligations. The CERB is unique and time-limited.
The CERB is a temporary income support benefit provided by the federal government to people who have stopped working because of COVID-19.
Can the Maintenance Enforcement Program garnish my income tax refund and my one-time special Good and Services Tax Credits rebate?
Yes, income tax refunds and Goods and Services Tax Credits (GSTC) are still garnish-able by the Maintenance Enforcement Program.
Under federal legislation, income tax refunds and GSTC may be garnished to satisfy family support obligations when MEP makes a formal request for garnishment to Justice Canada. Garnishment of the GSTC includes the one-time special payment, which is part of the federal government’s Economic Response Plan to COVID-19.
In the context of COVID-19, will the federal government continue to garnish Employment Insurance benefits to pay my support arrears?
Yes, there is no change to federal garnishment of these amounts. Employment Insurance benefits may still be garnished when a formal request under the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act is made to the Department of Justice for federal garnishment.
How do I make payments to the Maintenance Enforcement Program during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During the pandemic, no in-person payments can be made as the Family Law Centre is closed to the public. The following options are available:
- Pre-authorized banking agreements or payment orders (e.g. payroll deductions);
- Online banking (contact your enforcement officer for instructions on how to set this up);
- Arrange to pay with cash, debit card or cheque by contacting MEP. An appointment will be set up for you to visit either the Family Law Centre or the Summerside Courthouse to process the payment (courthouse is only able to accept cash or cheque). Note: Only use this method if the other payment methods listed here are not available to you.
- Send money orders or cheques, which can be purchased at the post office, by mail (see address below).
Will I still receive my support payments? Will there be delays?
The Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) will continue to send your support payments as MEP receives them. If payments are not made, MEP will take all appropriate enforcement action to try to get your support payments.
There may be some delays in the disbursement of support payments received due to a reduced workforce (e.g. staffing at MEP, banks, etc.), but every effort will be made to limit disruptions and maintain our service level.
I did not receive my full support payment last month. Why?
During this unprecedented crisis, collecting and disbursing support payments remain our highest priority. However, there are situations where a payor’s financial situation has changed unexpectedly. The Maintenance Enforcement Program recognizes that these are challenging times for everyone involved and we are working through each issue on a case-by-case basis.
I am an employer; do I still have to remit payments?
Yes, please continue to send your payments. If you have any questions about deductions contact the Maintenance Enforcement Program.
Maintenance Enforcement Program
Honourable C.R. McQuaid Family Law Centre
1 Harbourside Access Road, PO Box 2000
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8