Q&A — Support

The family justice services division recognizes that a large number of people are in real financial distress during this public health crisis.

FMEP is limiting some of its enforcement actions during this time. It has temporarily stopped:

  • Issuing new credit reports to credit reporting agencies
  • Issuing default fees for missed or late payments
  • Cancelling driver’s licences

Other enforcement actions used to collect unpaid maintenance are still available and may be considered on a case by case basis.

[Source: FMEP COVID-19 Frequently asked questions]

You may be able to get some financial help from the federal government. They’ve announced support for employees, employers, the self-employed, and many other groups during this time.

Changing a Court Order or Agreement

If you have a court order or separation agreement to pay child or spousal support, or both, you’re expected to pay it. If you can’t pay support because things have changed for you, usually you can ask the court to set aside (replace all or part of) your court order. However, because of COVID-19, BC family courts are now open only for urgent matters. Setting aside support orders or (court-filed) agreements may not be considered urgent since it may be a temporary financial situation and you may be able to return to work.

Remember, you’re not alone. Many families are in the same situation. The uncertainty and lack of control can be unsettling.

You might want to contact the person you pay support to and explain your financial and employment situation. You can offer to pay the balance once you’re back at work, and see if they agree.

If the other person doesn’t agree and you can’t make a payment, try to pay something, if you can. They're likely worried about money as well, and needing your financial support.

If you need help to discuss the situation with the person you pay support to, you can contact a family justice counsellor (1-844-747-3963). You could also try to contact a family mediator to help you and the other person reach an agreement. Mediate BC is offering a low-cost option for mediation.

If you want to try to change your order or agreement, apply online using this Application for an Urgent Hearing form. Then send the form:

If you aren’t sure if your matter is urgent, call duty counsel to discuss the issue.

Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP)

If you’re registered with the FMEP, it’s very important that you contact your case manager at FMEP as soon as possible to let them know your financial and employment situation. Sign into your web account and if you don’t have FMEP web email, follow the instructions to set one up and send a web e-message explaining your situation.

Plan what documents or information might be needed by FMEP before contacting them. If you need help, duty counsel (click here for phone numbers) or a family justice counsellor (1-844-747-3963) may be able to assist you.

Try to pay your regular maintenance payment if you can. If you can’t, at the least, try to pay something. If the other person agrees on a temporary reduction, make sure that both of you let FMEP know.

Arrears

If you are behind in your support payments and there are arrears, e-message your case manager about the arrears, especially if there is an enforcement order requiring you to pay an amount on the arrears or face jail time.

Court Enforcement

If there is an enforcement proceeding in court, contact the Provincial Court Registry where your matter is supposed to be heard. The hearing may be postponed and there may be another date scheduled in a few months.

If the proceeding is going ahead, you may be able to apply to suspend, change, or cancel the enforcement order, especially if FMEP takes serious action against you that includes the possibility of going to jail.

If you want to try to change your order or agreement, apply online using this Application for an Urgent Hearing form. Then send it:

You may be worried about your finances, and be unable to work because you need to look after children, or because you lost your job. The person who is supposed to be paying you may have lost their job too. You’re not alone. Many families are in the same situation ― concerned and uncertain.

If the other person approaches you to reduce support, try to work out something temporarily, if you can. You both may be in difficult financial circumstances, but try to explain if you need money for your or your children’s basic needs.

If you’re enrolled with FMEP, your case manager will be monitoring the regular maintenance and will try to ensure you get regular payments. You don’t need to contact the case manager. If you have an agreement to temporarily reduce support with the other person, you should sign into your web account and send a web e-message explaining your situation.

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Page last updated: Monday, April 20, 2020, 13:15 hrs