You hope that once you have a separation agreement or a court order, that everything will be smooth sailing. But sometimes agreements and orders are not followed. When this happens, you may need to take action to enforce an agreement or order.
There are certain steps you can take to enforce your agreement or court order, depending on the issue. The first place to start would be communicating with your former spouse. There may be a reason the order or agreement isn’t working anymore. Communicating effectively with your former spouse may make it a simple fix. Working it out instead of rushing to court will save you a lot of time and money. Refer back to Chapter 3 to learn more about negotiating with your former spouse.
Only separation agreements that have been registered with the court are enforceable.
Generally speaking you can apply to the Provincial Court to have your order or registered agreement enforced by following the steps bellow.
FMEP has far-reaching powers to be able to enforce support payments. The program can garnish wages, put on lien on property, suspend a driver’s license, and more.
Enroll by completing the online FMEP application, or by calling the office in your area.
If you have an order or agreement regarding support (either child or spousal) and the payor fails to make payments, a debt begins to incur. The amount of debt that the payor owes is called “arrears”.
There are 2 ways to collect arrears:
Collection with FMEP
The FMEP is a free service that monitors and enforces support payments. Anyone who has a support order or has filed a separation agreement may enroll in the program.
Once you are enrolled, which usually takes about 4 months, FMEP begins to enforce your rights to support. The FMEP may take legal actions to enforce the payments such as garnishment (seizing a portion of the payor’s wages) property liens or jailing the payor.
Collection without FMEP
Without FMEP, you can always negotiate or talk it out with your former spouse and come to a payment arrangement that works for both of you. Failing this, you may wish to proceed with taking the payor to court and getting an order to garnish wages or bank accounts, force production of financial information, or to summons the payor to attend a hearing about the arrears. There are court remedies to deal with spouses that do not comply with an order.
It can however be time consuming and difficult to obtain an order collecting arrears. It is recommended you use FMEP to enforce support.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If a variation in the arrangements occurs but can be accommodated or isn’t causing significant difficulties for your or the children, let it go. Make note of it occurring but don’t rush to court over it.
It often happens that the order or agreement regarding the care of the children isn’t followed to the letter. A parent may be late for a drop off, or miss a designated weekend visit because of a conflict such as a work trip. Sometimes, it will be worth going to court, but usually, it is best for the two of you to work it out without the courts involvement.
Whenever possible, it is best for you to resolve parenting issues together. As necessary, get the help of professionals such as mediators or FJCs. Seeing Chapter 4 – Getting Help for to get professional assistance.
It is important to remember to focus on the best interest of the children. Working together and being flexible will be a lot easier on your children as well as yourself.
If you need to go to court
Attention: Follow the agreement or court order even if the other parent doesn’t. Do not take matters into your own hands.
For example, if the other parent kept the kids an extra few hours, it doesn’t entitle you to keep the kids an extra few hours. Remember to keep in mind the best interest of the child.
In some situations you might need to go to court, e.g. where it is a repetitive problem that you cannot work out. If the terms of your order or agreement regarding parenting arrangements are not being followed, you may bring an application before the Provincial Court or Supreme Court for a solution. In your separation agreement you may have included a remedy, method to deal with one of you not fulfilling your obligations set out in the agreement. The court will try to stick to the remedy you agreed on in your agreement. If you have no remedy set out, the court will use the general remedies under the Family Law Act.
The general remedies allow courts to:
In extreme cases, courts may enforce orders for parenting time and contact by: