Amendments to the Maintenance Enforcement Act [MEA] and the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act [ISOA] were made on November 22, 2016. These amendments affect collection of child and spousal support by the Maintenance Enforcement Program [MEP].
- Further clarification of what occurs when a debtor applies for a stay of enforcement under the MEA. Effective November 23, 2016, unless the court directs otherwise, a stay has a duration of 9 months (increased from 3 months with the ability to extend for a further 6 months), is limited to arrears only, and does not apply to lump sum or one-time payments owed to the debtor. In the absence of specific direction in a stay, the MEP will continue to enforce ongoing support payments due and any related new arrears. There is also a new requirement that, prior to granting a stay, the court is satisfied that the debtor attempted to make a payment arrangement with MEP, or has provided reasons why a payment arrangement was not possible.
- A new requirement under the MEA that all clients keep contact information up-to-date with MEP, and that debtors also keep their employment, income, and other financial information current.
- Amendments to the ISOA which impact the interjurisdictional support order process. This includes clarifying choice of law provisions, expanding the definition of ‘support order’ to include administrative recalculations, reducing the amount of time for jurisdictions to respond to information requests by Alberta courts to 12 months, clarifying that an order made in Alberta is to be treated the same as an order registered in Alberta, and changing all references of ‘ordinarily resident’ to ‘habitually resident’ to align with 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance.
Why is it important that I be aware of these changes? To be aware of the new legislative requirements the court must consider prior to granting a stay of enforcement.
What key information should I know about these changes? These changes were the result of consultation and engagement activities between Alberta’s MEP, other Canadian jurisdictions’ MEPs, and Alberta-based lawyers, judges, clients, and Government of Alberta ministries.
How will these legislative changes affect me/my practice? When there are no specific terms in a stay of enforcement order, MEP interprets the stay of enforcement as being granted in accordance with the new amended s 32 of the MEA.
Prior to the court granting a stay of enforcement, the debtor is now required to show to the court that he or she attempted to make a payment arrangement with MEP, or provide reasons why a payment arrangement could not be made. MEP anticipates this change will encourage debtors to make a payment arrangement with MEP and this will reduce the number of court applications. To assist the courts in making this determination, MEP provides debtors with a written explanation if a payment arrangement is not possible.
Is there any additional key information I should know regarding these changes? These amendments do not change the MEA’s provisions which indicate that a stay of enforcement does not affect MEP’s ability to issue the following collections actions: a Federal Support Deduction Notice, motor vehicle restriction and/or suspension, federal license denial, Land Titles registrations, and writs at the Personal Property Registry.
Click here for more information , or call the Maintenance Enforcement Program at 1.780.422.5555.
Toll-free in Alberta: 310-0000: select the Program’s lawyer line.