VICTORIA - Efforts by B.C.'s Family Maintenance Enforcement Program are paying off, as 2011-12 family support collections hit a record $190 million, helping to make a significant difference in the lives of many families provincewide.
In its annual report released today, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP), which monitors and enforces family support court orders and agreements for more than 45,000 families, recorded a $10.5-million jump in collection from the previous year. This is the largest single annual increase the program has ever seen, and more than doubles the average annual increase over the past 10 years.
Increased use of technology, small regulation changes, focused resources and strong reciprocal relationships with other provinces and countries all have contributed to the record-setting collection numbers.
Since its inception in 1988, the FMEP has helped to ensure that over $2.6 billion in child and spousal support payments, money which might not have otherwise been paid, went directly to the children and families entitled to receive it.
Monetary penalties are imposed on those individuals who are registered in the program and are delinquent in making their payments through FMEP. These fees, along with the $18 million the program is estimated to have saved government in income assistance costs this year, make the FMEP a cost-neutral program.
The FMEP aligns with BC's Family Agenda. Under BC's Family Agenda, government is working to support and protect vulnerable families, keep communities safe and make life more affordable. To read the Agenda, share your ideas or provide feedback, visit: www.FamiliesFirstBC.ca
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond -
"B.C.'s Family Maintenance Enforcement Program plays a part in the lives of almost 65,000 children, helping to ensure that their needs are given the utmost priority."
"The success of this program meant that, last year alone, more than $190 million went directly to families that might not have otherwise received their support payments - for some families, this could make difference of whether or not there's food on the table."
"Our government made changes to the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, which have helped streamline processes and eliminate unnecessary filing requirements, making the FMEP an even more effective program for B.C. families. As well, the number of reciprocal agreements we have with other jurisdictions continues to climb, ensuring more families can access this program's services."
FMEP clients, names withheld to protect confidentiality -
"I will be forever grateful. FMEP really did help out in difficult times. Thank you for being there."
"I would like to let you know that your services served me and my family greatly. I am so happy that FMEP is there to help others in need. You probably don't get much gratitude for your work."
"Please know that you have been our family's saviour, that we owe you our sincere gratitude. Your work is very, very meaningful to us all."
- Approximately 84,000 parents are currently enrolled in the FMEP and support payments are received for almost 65,000 children.
- In 55 per cent of FMEP cases, the children are over 14 years old. About one case in five has a child aged 19 or older, which illustrates how the program can play a role in ensuring that children are able to continue their post-secondary education and enter the workforce.
- Since the program's inception in 1988, payments totalling more than $2.6 billion have been collected.
- Since 2002, the total annual amount of child and spousal support payments received through the FMEP has increased by over $50 million. Twenty-three per cent of the payments collected last year (almost $44 million) went to families that were formerly on income assistance. The payments received by these families are a significant contributor to their transition to becoming self-sufficient.
- Last year, the program processed over 500,000 individual payments (more than 2,000 per day), with a turnaround time standard of two days or less.
- B.C. residents with a support order or an agreement filed with the court can enrol in the FMEP. There is no cost to enrol.
- As most of B.C.'s interprovincial cases are with other western provinces, B.C. has led a project with Alberta and Saskatchewan to ensure that support enforcement services continue uninterrupted if a parent moves across the respective borders, helping families that rely on support for their children.
- Innovative services, such as comprehensive web services that include e-notices for parents, online assistance for employers, electronic fund transfer and secure information exchange with other jurisdictions, have resulted in over one million web hits per year, helped to reduce costs and produce better results for B.C. families.
- Recent changes to the law governing the FMEP have eliminated one of the major delays in processing requests for enrolment. Since the requirement to wait for a copy of an enforcement agreement before processing a request has been eliminated, FMEP staff have been able to reduce the number of files awaiting court orders by 23 per cent in the last four months of the year alone.
Family Maintenance Enforcement Program: http://www.fmep.gov.bc.ca/
FMEP 2011-12 annual report: http://www.fmep.gov.bc.ca/shared/pdfs/BCFMEP-Annual-Report.pdf
A backgrounder follows.
Ministry of Justice
250 580-4730 (cell)
How the FMEP collects support payments for families
Many people who have been ordered to pay family support do so without involvement by the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP), and many payers who are enrolled in FMEP make their payments regularly and on time. However, there are times when FMEP involvement is necessary to ensure that families receive money owed to them through support orders.
Under the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, a number of actions can be taken by FMEP to address the issue. They include:
- Collection of payments directly from employment income, pensions, workers' compensation benefits, employment insurance benefits, or rental income. Funds can also be "attached" from bank accounts and other assets, as well as income tax refunds.
- Registering a maintenance order against land, ensuring that in the event of sale any owed monies are given to the FMEP recipient family.
- Seizing personal property, such as a car or boat, and arranging its sale when arrears go unpaid.
- Reporting individuals who owe more than $2,000 in support to the credit bureau, thereby affecting the person's ability to qualify for a credit card or take out a loan for home, car or other purchase.
- Directing relevant agencies to refuse to issue or renew critical documents such as driver's licences, licences for motor vehicles or trailers, federal aviation and marine licences and passports.
- Making a corporation liable for maintenance payments in instances where individuals owing money also own all or a major part of a corporation.
- In extreme cases, seeking a jail sentence from a judge.
Through reciprocal agreements, British Columbia can also collect maintenance payments from all Canadian provinces and territories, the United States and 17 other countries.
Ministry of Justice
250 580-4730 (cell)