Self-described ‘deadbeat dad’ says court ordered payments are too high

HALIFAX – A Nova Scotia man who owes almost $100,000 in arrears to the province’s Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) says his wages are being garnished to the point where he doesn’t have enough money to live on.


Self-described ‘deadbeat dad’ says court ordered payments are too high

Self-described ‘deadbeat dad’ says court ordered payments are too high


The man, whose identity Global News agreed not to reveal due to a court order that prevents him from mentioning his ex-wife or children, said he recently secured full-time employment. However, he said MEP is required to collect payments in amounts that were set based on a previous job’s income, which he no longer earns.

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BC How to deal with a committal hearing (because you’ve fallen behind in your support payments)

Who this guide is for

This guide is for you if you’ve been served with a summons for a committal hearing because you haven’t paid maintenance (child and/or spousal support) that you owe. At a committal hearing, you’ll be asked to explain why you haven’t paid the support.

If you want to avoid going to jail, it will be up to you to prove to the judge that one of the following is true:

  • Your income is lower, so the court should issue a new enforcement order that says you can pay less per month. (For example, you might have lost your job or become ill.)
  • There was an error. This could happen if:
    • you paid the support to the recipient but that person never reported the payment to the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP), or
    • there’s a difference between what you think you owe and what the FMEP believes you owe (for instance, your child who is over 19 dropped out of school and the FMEP hasn’t been informed).
  • You were behind in your payments, but you’ve now paid what you owed (you should pay the FMEP instead of sending a cheque to the recipient).
  • It would be a “grave injustice” to imprison you.

Remember that, at this point, your case is with the FMEP and the court, not with the person you owe the support to. That person usually can’t keep you from going to jail, unless they’ve failed to report payments you’ve made to them.

The steps in this guide provide more information about how to prepare for court, how to apply to change either the original support order or the enforcement order, and how the judge might rule at the hearing.

List of steps

Click on the steps below to see the detailed instructions for each step.

Step 1 Review the papers that came with the summons
Step 2 Check the FMEP’s calculations about the jail time you face
Step 3 Decide what to do
Step 4 Negotiate (work out a payment plan) with the FMEP (optional)
Step 5 Apply to change the support order (optional)
Step 6 Apply to change the enforcement order (optional)
Step 7 Prepare your case for the committal hearing
Step 8 Attend the hearing
Step 9 Possible outcomes

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BC Pro Bono

Mission, Objectives and Principles
Our Mission is to promote access to justice in BC by providing and fostering quality pro bono legal services for people and non-profit organizations of limited means. We also subscribe to a number of supporting Objectives and Principles.

To promote access to justice in British Columbia by providing and fostering quality pro bono legal services for people and non-profit organizations of limited means.


1. To relieve poverty by fostering, organizing and providing quality pro bono legal services to individuals and organizations of limited means.

2. To facilitate access to justice by persons and organizations of limited means and to promote and strengthen the provision of pro bono legal services in British Columbia by:

(i) improving the quality and capacity of existing pro bono and other legal service programs;

(ii) developing and operating, or assisting in the development and operation of, programs that enhance access to justice and to legal services in communities throughout British Columbia, including pro bono programs and community clinics offering free legal advice and assistance; and

(iii) assisting organizations to establish pro bono or volunteer components to their services and programs.

3. To provide training, resources and information to individuals and organizations facilitating access to justice or providing pro bono legal services;

4. To conduct research into issues which relate to access to justice, the provision of pro bono legal services and volunteerism in the legal sector.


1. Pro bono legal services are those legal services that are provided to people and non-profit organizations of limited means without expectation of a fee.

2. Pro bono legal services should be designed and provided according to the changing social and legal needs of the people and non-profit organizations of limited means for whom they are intended.

3. Pro bono legal services should be provided to people and organizations of limited means according to the same standards of dedication, excellence, and professional ethics as paid legal services.

4. Pro bono legal services should serve to complement and not replace government-funded programs advancing access to justice; a collaborative pro bono system should not substitute for a properly funded legal aid system.

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BC Legal Aid

We’re here to help

Welcome to the Legal Services Society (LSS), the organization that provides legal aid in BC.

If you have a legal problem and can’t afford a lawyer, we can help. Join the thousands who use the self-help information on our Family Law in BCwebsite, find information for the Aboriginalcommunity on our Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website, or who read our free legal information publications. You may also qualify for some legal advice from a lawyer or even for a lawyer to take your case.

Find out more about legal aid and LSS.

BC Lawyer Referral Service

f you are a lawyer interested in participating in this program, the following information may interest you. If you are a member of the public seeking legal advice click here.

The BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association operates the Lawyer Referral Service, funded by the Law Foundation of BC. The Service enables members of the public to consult with a lawyer for up to 30 minutes for a fee of $25. After the consultation, the fees to be charged are strictly between the lawyer and the client. The lawyer is not obliged to accept the applicant’s case and the applicant is under no obligation to retain the lawyer. CBA and non-CBA members are welcome to participate.

How it Works

Lawyers enroll by completing the attached enrollment form. The lawyers’ names circulate on rotation through each of the panels (areas of law) in which they enroll. These lists are automatically rotated in our computer database.

The Lawyer Referral operator receives a telephone call from a member of the public and after screening to determine the category of law required, provides the appropriate lawyer’s name and advises as follows:

  1. it is the applicant’s responsibility to make the appointment;
  2. the lawyer will charge $25 for up to the first 30 minutes of consultation but after that period, the fees are strictly between the lawyer and the applicant;
  3. when the applicant calls the lawyer to make the appointment, the applicant should advise that the lawyer’s name was provided by the Lawyer Referral Service; this is to let the lawyer know that he or she is only to charge this minimal fee.

A confirmation of the referral is then faxed, emailed or mailed to the lawyer, depending on the lawyer’s choice. If you do not receive a referral from us, but someone claims to have been referred to you through the Service, the most likely reason is word-of-mouth referral from a previously satisfied client. Such informal referrals are beyond the control of the BC Branch office and if they do occur, it is a matter for the lawyer to deal with as he/she think best.

Once a referral is provided to the applicant, the lawyer’s name is rotated to the bottom of the referral list. If you have not been contacted by the applicant we refer to you within two weeks, you may advise the Lawyer Referral Service and your name will automatically revert to the top of the list.

Your Obligations

Your registration in the Lawyer Referral Service is voluntary; however you must maintain membership in good standing with the Law Society of BC in order to remain enrolled in our Service. You have the same professional obligations to Lawyer Referral clients as to any other client (read important Instruction Letter attached).


Many lawyers enroll in the Lawyer Referral Service as a public service, and have few expectations with respect to gaining clients. Others find the Service a good source of client referrals. Regardless of your motivation, we encourage you to get involved in this worthwhile CBA program.

Caroline Nevin
Executive Director
per the Lawyer Referral Service Advisory Committee
“I find offering this service to be a rewarding experience both in terms of providing a source of clients and a source of pleasure in having helped people who cannot afford a lawyer but need direction on how to proceed in the legal waters!” 

– Marianne Walters
Application for Lawyer Referral Service Registration
Instruction Letter

Courts and Judiciary

Court of Appeal of British Columbia
Provincial Court of British Columbia
Supreme Court of British Columbia