9 Effective Strategies for Pursuing the Collection of Unpaid Child Support

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At McLean Legal Family Lawyers in Calgary, we understand that ensuring consistent and timely child support payments is crucial for the financial well-being of your family as unpaid obligations by a payor parent can create significant strain and stress. Here, we will explore nine effective strategies to help you pursue the collection of unpaid child support.

Understand Your Legal Rights

The first step in pursuing unpaid child support is understanding that, under Canadian law, this is a legal obligation, and non-payment of support for children is taken extremely seriously by the Courts. Firstly, familiarize yourself with the child support order or agreement already in place, and the specific amounts owed so that you can then take action in an informed and appropriate manner. 

Document Everything

Keeping detailed records is essential when pursuing unpaid child support. Document all communications with the non-paying parent, including emails, texts, and phone calls. It is also recommended that you maintain a chart/log of all missed payments and any partial payments received, by month. These records will be valuable evidence if the circumstances escalate and you need to work with a family lawyer in Calgary.

Communicate with the Non-Paying Parent

Before taking formal legal action, consider attempting to resolve the issue through direct communication with the non-paying parent. The payor may be facing temporary financial difficulties or other challenges that have prevented him or her from making payments; remember that open, respectful communication can sometimes lead to a mutually-agreeable solution.

However, ensure that any agreements that are made following these communications are documented in writing, at the most simple with an email or text requesting the payor to confirm the terms of the agreement or, more formally, by having the agreement reflected in a Consent Order that will then be filed with the Court.

Seek Legal Advice

If direct communication fails to resolve the issue, seeking legal advice is the next step. At McLean Legal Family Lawyers, our experienced team can provide you with the guidance and support needed to navigate the complexities of child support enforcement. We can help you understand your options and develop a tailored strategy to pursue the uncollected payments effectively.

Utilize Enforcement Agencies

In Alberta, the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) is automatically included as the enforcement mechanism in all Court Orders for child support collection and enforcement.  However, a recipient of support is still required to contact MEP, open a file, and swear a statement attesting to any existing arrears of support, by month. Once a file is opened, MEP ensures that child support payments are made to its office, it keeps a record of all payments and defaults of payments, and forwards all payments received to the recipient of support.

Keep in mind, however, if support is due on the 1st of each month, it will take MEP around 7-10 days to ensure the payment clears before forwarding payment to you. If a file goes into default for too long, MEP can take steps to enforce child support orders such as garnishing wages, seizing assets, intercepting federal payments (like tax refunds), and suspending driver’s licenses or passports. MEP’s collection and enforcement of child support orders is free for anyone who is a recipient of support and you can call in at any time and make inquiries about the status of your file.

Enforcement outside of MEP

If a recipient of support has never filed with MEP for collection, or wishes to remove themselves from MEP to attempt to take enforcement proceedings faster than MEP would get to it, then lawyers can be of assistance. It is important to note, however, that once you remove yourself from MEP, then MEP will be unlikely to permit you to re-apply for their assistance.  It is too much of an administrative burden for a recipient of support to constantly enter and exit the program and it also makes it challenging for the payor of support to know whom to pay.

Enforcement outside of MEP is also not free – steps that MEP might take longer to get to can be taken by your lawyer but you will have to pay your chosen lawyer’s hourly rate through a retainer.

Explore Contempt of Court

If the payor parent is in violation of court-ordered child support, it is possible to file an application for contempt of court. This application requests that the court enforce an order by imposing sanctions upon the payor parent for non-compliance. Penalties could include fines, restrictions on the payor parent being unable to file any applications of their own with the Court until the contempt is corrected, or even jail time (in severe cases).

While penalties may be a wake-up call for a payor parent, chances are that if he or she wasn’t paying child support, another order including penalties is unlikely to be effective, either.  Thus, other actions would need to be explored.

Explore Wage Garnishment

Once a determination of arrears has been made by a Court, the totality of the arrears can be registered as a writ of enforcement (a debt owing) with the Alberta Personal Property Registry.  Once that writ has been filed, wage garnishment can be a very effective tool for collecting unpaid child support if you know who the payor parent’s employer is. This legal process involves deducting the owed amounts directly from the non-paying parent’s paycheck (at source with their employer).

Those deductions are paid into Court and after approx. a month or so after starting this process, the Court will commence sending the monies collected to you directly or, if you have a lawyer, to your lawyer’s office for your attention.

Consider Filing Against Real Property

In some cases, filing a writ of enforcement against the payor parent’s real property (i.e. a residence or any investment properties) can be an effective strategy. That filing will prevent the property being mortgaged, prevent a mortgage renewal/refinace or from being sold without the debt owed to you being repaid. It may take some time until one of these situations arises so you need to understand that payment may not be received in the short term.

Stay Informed and Persistent

Patience and persistence is key when pursuing unpaid child support. Legal enforcement can be a lengthy process, but with determination and the right strategies, you can secure the payments your child is entitled to.

Your Family Lawyers in Calgary

At McLean Legal Family Lawyers in Calgary, we are committed to helping you achieve a fair and just resolution in child support matters. Our dedicated team is here to support you every step of the way, ensuring that your family’s financial needs are met. If you need assistance with unpaid child support, contact us today to schedule a consultation, and together we can explore your options.

There is a brighter future ahead with McLean Legal Family Lawyers. As your dynamic, multi-service family law firm in Calgary, McLean Legal can offer you personalized legal services tailored to your particular circumstances. We endeavour to resolve matters quickly and with minimal conflict, offering calm, professional, and realistic advice. Given our years of experience in family law, we can assist with your child support, divorce, mediation and separation agreements, as well as civil litigation, commercial/corporate, and real estate law. With over 30 years of experience and success, we’re the Calgary family lawyers that offer you a brighter future. Book your free consultation by calling 587-353-2632.

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