Obtaining an award for child support in court or through mediation or arbitration often seems like the final step in taking care of the children of divorce. Once the award is issued, this creates a legal obligation for the payor, and legal remedies for the payee if the payor fails to live up to their responsibilities. However, for some parents, obtaining the award is just the start of a long, frustrating process of trying to collect on the order. As one mother in Nova Scotia has learned over the past several years, enforcing a support award against someone who really does not want to pay is extremely challenging and time-consuming. Now, her efforts may be thwarted by the very entity that was supposed to help her: the provincial government.

Nova Scotia Mother in a Years-Long Battle to Enforce Child Support

The CBC has been reporting on this story for several years, as Angela Power has made public attempts to collect on child support arrears owed by her ex-husband, which now total over half a million dollars. After the couple divorced, the husband was originally ordered to pay child support in the amount of $700 per month. He made those payments for 8 years, but in 2013, the award was changed to $3,242 per month after it was discovered he had failed to fully disclose his income.

In 2017, the news outlet reported Ms. Power had been expelled from the provincial Maintenence Enforcement Program (MEP) after officials in the program made a determination that she had made independent attempts to enforce the support payments rather than waiting for it to be dealt with via traditional channels. There had been a website set up to make accusations against her ex-husband, though she claimed she had no involvement.

After filing a complaint with the MEP Ombudsman, Ms. Power was readmitted to the program, however, it may have been too late. The MEP had revoked the husband’s passport while she was part of the program, preventing him from leaving the country. While she was removed from the MEP, his passport was restored, and he immediately fled to Denmark. He was later deported but failed to let the MEP know his location.

An arrest warrant was issued against Mr. Power in 2019, however, he has still not shared his location. Ms. Power has since started an action against the province to recover the funds owing to her, claiming that the NS MEP failed to collect the funds from her ex-husband when they were able. Now she is facing further delay as the province is seeking to add her ex-husband as a third party to the lawsuit.

Her primary concern with this move is that if the province is successful in adding him, he will be entitled to receive all disclosure in the case, including communications between Ms. Power and the province. Given her history with her ex, she does not want him to have access to all of this information; something she believes the province is counting on:

“They want to intimidate me into possibly dropping the suit because they know how much I don’t want him to have that disclosure.”

Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program

While Ms. Power’s situation is no doubt egregious, it appears to be unique. Alberta’s MEP is available to any person in possession of an order for child, spousal or partner support who resides in the province. In order to register, the payee must take the following steps:

  • get a court order, if they do not already have one
  • send the MEP any information that can help the program get payments from the payor of support
  • respond to any changes in the court order that the payor of support applies for
  • inform the MEP of any changes to the payee’s name, address, phone number or banking information that affects direct deposit
  • inform the MEP of any changes in the child’s status (for example: residence, education)
  • inform the MEP of any payments the payee receives directly from the payor of support

The family law lawyers at Mincher Koeman are exceptionally experienced with respect to child and spousal support awards following the breakdown of a relationship. We will work with you to ensure that you receive a support award that accurately reflects the true financial positions of the parties. Contact our office today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or contact us online.

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