The designated officers of the Maintenance Enforcement Program have the power to obtain information about the address and financial circumstances of persons required to pay support. This helps the Program take effective action if the paying person does not make the required payments (defaults). The program will make efforts to work with a support payer so that they can make payment and meet their support requirements through voluntary payments and without the need for enforcement. Voluntary payment is the only means to ensure support payments are paid to a support recipient on time.
What are the different types of enforcement action?
There are many steps the program can take to enforce support payments when default occurs, including:
- issuing a support deduction notice to the paying person’s employer, which directs the employer to remit some of the paying person’s wages directly to the program
- garnishing the money in the paying person’s bank accounts (including joint accounts)
- seizing RRSPs or bonds
- garnishing payments the paying person would usually receive under a pension plan, superannuation plan, life or fixed-term annuity policy, or an accident, sickness or disability insurance policy
- seizing and selling assets or property owned by a paying person (e.g., cars, jewellery, land)
- garnishing employment insurance benefits, income tax refunds, old age security payments and certain other funds paid by the federal government
- asking the Motor Vehicles Branch to suspend the paying person’s driver’s licence and registration privileges
- requiring the paying person to appear before the designated officer to provide information about his or her financial and employment situation
- requiring the paying person to appear before a judge or master of the court for a maintenance enforcement hearing (show cause hearing)
- garnishing lottery prize winnings of the paying person
- garnishing the money to the paying person’s credit in their pension plan (pension benefit credits)
- garnishing money owed or seizing and selling property from a company that is controlled by a paying person, where the court authorizes this action.
Who decides what enforcement action will be taken?
The designated officer decides what enforcement action is most appropriate for each case.
What happens at a show cause hearing?
A defaulting person appearing for a show cause hearing must satisfy the court that they did not wilfully fail to make support payments. For example, there were extreme circumstances that made it impossible for the person to make payments. The person entitled to payments (creditor) does not have to attend the hearing. Representatives from Manitoba Justice will appear on behalf of the Program at the show cause hearing to enforce the order.
At the end of the show cause hearing, the court may order payment of the arrears in full or through regular installments (e.g., monthly payments). These default payments are in addition to the regular support payments already required under the order or agreement. The court may also fine the defaulting person up to $10,000 and/or order a jail term of up to 200 days.
It is important to note that payment of a fine or time in jail does not mean the defaulting person no longer has to pay the support arrears – all outstanding support payments continue to be owing to the support recipient.
How are arrears of support cancelled or payments reduced?
A paying person who wants to have arrears of support cancelled or payments reduced must ask a judge to cancel arrears and/or reduce payments (a variation application). This kind of court application is not heard in maintenance enforcement court. The paying person must give the support recipient notice of a variation application.
For more information, visit the Changing Child Support or the Changing Spousal Support sections of this website.
How can support for adult children be changed?
As of July 1, 2019, a paying person who believes that support should no longer be enforced for an adult child can ask the Maintenance Enforcement Program to conduct a child status review to determine whether continued enforcement is appropriate. If the parties agree that the support for an adult child should no longer be payable, they can complete an approved form to change the support amount for enforcement purposes.
What is the contact information for the Maintenance Enforcement Program?
Maintenance Enforcement Program
100 – 352 Donald Street
Winnipeg MB R3B 2H8
Website: Maintenance Enforcement Program