Family Maintenance Enforcement Program

How to deal with a committal hearing (because you've fallen behind in your support payments)

Who this guide is for

This guide is for you if you've been served with a summons for a committal hearing because you haven't paid maintenance (child and/or spousal support) that you owe. At a committal hearing, you'll be asked to explain why you haven't paid the support.

If you want to avoid going to jail, it will be up to you to prove to the judge that one of the following is true:

  • Your income is lower, so the court should issue a new enforcement order that says you can pay less per month. (For example, you might have lost your job or become ill.)
  • There was an error. This could happen if:
    • you paid the support to the recipient but that person never reported the payment to the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP), or
    • there's a difference between what you think you owe and what the FMEP believes you owe (for instance, your child who is over 19 dropped out of school and the FMEP hasn't been informed).
  • You were behind in your payments, but you've now paid what you owed (you should pay the FMEP instead of sending a cheque to the recipient).
  • It would be a "grave injustice" to imprison you.

Remember that, at this point, your case is with the FMEP and the court, not with the person you owe the support to. That person usually can't keep you from going to jail, unless they've failed to report payments you've made to them.

The steps in this guide provide more information about how to prepare for court, how to apply to change either the original support order or the enforcement order, and how the judge might rule at the hearing.