What you need to know: mandatory clauses in support orders

Child Support Orders filed in the Province of Alberta must include the mandatory MEP clause, annual exchange of financial information and a decision with respect to the Recalculation Program. The wording for each clause is standard and should not be changed. The intention of these mandatory terms is relatively straightforward; however, many people find themselves wondering what they actually mean for them and why those terms are even in their court order.

1. Maintenance Enforcement Program

The amounts owing under this Order shall be paid to the Director of Maintenance Enforcement (“MEP”), 7th Floor North, 10365 ‑ 97 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, T5J 3W7, 780‑422‑5555 (website: www.albertamep.gov.ab.ca) and shall be enforced by MEP on the filing of the Order with MEP by the creditor (recipient of support) or debtor (payor of support). The amounts owing shall continue to be enforced by MEP until the party who filed this Order gives MEP notice in writing withdrawing this Order from filing in accordance with section 9 of the Maintenance Enforcement Act.

“MEP Clause”

Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, the above clause must be included in every support order and should not be changed. This clause applies in addition to any financial disclosure requirements of the Alberta Child Support Recalculation Program. However, out of all of the mandatory clauses, the Maintenance Enforcement clause creates the most disharmony between the payor and the recipient of child or spousal support.

Mep Clause FAQ:

[1] “We get along. We don’t need the Maintenance Enforcement Program. Can we remove it?”

Nope. You’re stuck with it in your order even if you do not want to use it. The Maintenance Enforcement Program (“MEP”) clause is there to keep the door open for either person (payor or recipient) to enroll with MEP in the future without going back to court first.

[2] “He won’t agree to the order unless the part about MEP removed. Can we try and remove it?”

The court order will not be filed without it. That clause is there to protect you in case he does not do his pay as required by the order. If the possibility of being held accountable for paying the amount in the order is such a deal breaker, this should be considered a red flag.

[3] “The order was enrolled even though I’ve always paid on time each month. Why don’t I get a say?”

Some people want to use MEP for personal reasons (ie, limiting communication) even when the payor has integrity and payment has never been an issue. Either person (payor or recipient) is allowed to make that choice without the permission of the other. The payor must then direct all future payments to the Maintenance Enforcement Program to avoid penalties and charges.

 2. Annual Exchange of Financial Information

For as long as there is a “child of the marriage” as defined in the Divorce Act (Canada), the parties shall provide the following information on an annual basis:

(a)        On or before June 30 of each year, each party must provide the other party with a complete copy of the party’s personal income tax return, any Notice of Assessment or Reassessment from the Canada Revenue Agency for the preceding tax year, and the party’s 2 most recent pay stubs.  If the party has not filed an income tax return for the preceding year, then the party must, by June 30, provide the other party with copies of the party’s T4 slips and all other tax slips and information disclosing any and all sources of income for the preceding tax year.

(b)        A party that is a shareholder in a corporation, is self-employed, is a partner in a partnership or is a beneficiary under a trust must also provide the information required by paragraphs 21(1)(d), (e), (f) and (g) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines (SOR/97-175) for the preceding tax year.

“Annual Exchange of Financial Information Clause”

The intention of the annual exchange clause is to make sure that parents are paying or receiving the proper amount of child support based on their actual income. The payor is expected to share their income information and to adjust their payments accordingly. If this does not happen, the payor could be stuck paying a large amount for arrears later on when the recipient gets around to asking for the financial information through the courts.

There is also the risk that if a payor overpays when financial information is not exchanged as directed above, that those overpayments will be considered a “gift” and there will be no future credit or reimbursement for it. As a general guideline, there is a three-year window to recalculate support that was owed or paid in the past, and that three-year ticker starts from when notice is provided that recalculation has been requested.

How do I provide the financial information?”
  • If you use email, Our Family Wizard (“OFW”) or some other messaging program: you can send it using that method.
  • If lawyers are involved: forward your financial information, being your T1 General Income Tax and Benefit Return, Notice of Assessment and self-employment information, to your lawyer. Your counsel can pass it on to your ex or their counsel on your behalf. If you do not have a lawyer but the other person does: you can send those documents to their lawyer. If the other person does not provide their financial information, that’s their bad, but at least you did your part.

Do not give your financial information to the Maintenance Enforcement Program (“MEP”) with the belief that it will be passed on to the other party. MEP might collect your financial information for their own internal use. Providing your financial information to MEP does not meet the requirements pursuant to the annual exchange of financial information clause. You must send the required information to the other person or their agent.

3. Alberta Recalculation Program

The Alberta Recalculation Program clause is that last mandatory term that must be included in every child support order.

The order must allow for use of the program with this clause:

This Order may be recalculated by the Alberta Child Support Recalculation Program (“the Recalculation Program”) based on its anniversary date if eligible for recalculation and if the Recalculation Program determines recalculation is permissible and appropriate pursuant to the Family Law Act and regulations.  Either party may apply to register with the Recalculation Program at 8th Floor, 10365-97 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3W7, telephone 780-401-1111 (website: www.recalculation.alberta.ca).  Should either party fail to comply with the income disclosure requirements of the Recalculation Program, then the income of that party may be automatically deemed to have increased as set out in section 55.51 of the Family Law Act.

Or barred from the program using this clause:

This order shall not be recalculated by the Alberta Child Support Recalculation Program.

This program allows for the annual exchange and readjustment of child support without returning to court first. The program is a great option for simple calculations where both parents are employed as “T4” Employees. However, if there are concerns with self-employment income, undisclosed or imputed income, it might not be the best option and the parties (payor or recipient) should seek legal advice to determine which option is best for their situation.

Edmonton Family Network has connections to legal professionals and community support services to help. Contact us to learn more.

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