Collection parameters tighten on Maintenance Enforcement program;



Thursday; September 23; 2004;



Sharon Mcleay;

Standard reporter;


Strathmore Standard — The Maintenance Enforcement Program; run through the Alberta government that was set up to collect funds for children in marital dispute situations; are implementing some new operational guidelines.;


People utilizing the MEP program received a letter indicating some of the new changes they can expect.;


Currently the program acts as a go between to make sure court ordered child support payments be made.


There are already wide legislated actions the department can take to make sure those payments are made on time.; While the department indicates an 80 per cent collection rate has been achieved; it is conducting new measures to increase that collection success.;


“The system is working well; they are doing what they can to get this money back. If you look at it from both perspectives; they are trying to find better ways of helping people; who have a hard time paying; but on the other hand; you have families with children who are waiting for money to pay their bills. It is a bit of a balancing act; ” said Shannon Haggarty; spokesperson for Justice Communications.;


In March of 2004; amendments to the Maintenance Enforcement act have allowed the department to charge registration fees; late fees; NSP charges; failure to report or fill out requested paper work fees and substitution fees; that will be enforced as of Jan. 2005.;


Re-registration fees would charge creditors or debtors wishing to sign up into the program; after they had previously dropped out; $200.;


A default fee of $25 will be charged to the debtor for every month a payment is late.


There is a $50 charge for debtor NSF checks.


If the couple has made personal agreements to pay money without the creditor advising MEP; while on the program; the creditor can be charged $50. If a debtor fails to fill out Statement of Finance forms; mailed to them by the department the penalty is $200.


A Substitutional fee of $50 is charged to parties wishing extra services such as document copies or extra services not normally given by the department.; In collections of interest on late money; the creditor could request recovery; but MEP would keep 20 per cent of all recovered money; as a processing fee.;


Notice was given by the department that the computer system; which tracks the finance transactions will be down for up to one month in October; 2004. There is no mention of interest paid to clients for the delays that may occur from this service interruption.;


“There have been concerns about sending things on time and about them getting lost in the system; ” said Haggarty.;


Some clients have previously had concerns about system delays involved in receiving payment that was due to paper transfer and internal system problems.;


For example; payments deducted from employee paychecks have been delayed up to 15 days; before the custodial parent received funds.; Haggerty’s suggestion is that people prepare to make payments earlier; so they reach the system on time.;


“What should matter to the person sending it in; is that they should get it to the system on the day that the court order asks them to. So; if it is due on the first; get it into Maintenance Enforcement on time. There is a bit of a lag; to make sure the money clears; if it is a cheque for instance; to make sure the money is in there. So; that would take a little bit of time; but that certainly is not a penalty to the person making the payment.”;


While she cannot comment on specific concerns; as that is something clients would have to take up directly with MEP. The bottom line is that they get the payment up there on the day that the court order directs them to.;


If people fall on hard times; Haggarty said they could make arrangements to pay off the arrears. The department’s expectation is to keep up on the monthly court order.;


MEP’s mandate restricts it’s role to financial and collection and distribution issues.;


For more information on the new MEP guidelines check out



© 2004 Strathmore Standard