For people receiving support
Child support and child access are separate issues. You cannot deny the other parent access to their children because he or she has not paid support. In most cases, regular contact with both parents is beneficial to children, even if one is not paying support that is owed.
To have child or spousal support enforced, you need either:
- a support order from a court; or
- a written support agreement signed by you and your former spouse.
If you do not have a court order or a written agreement, you need to get one first, and then make arrangements to have it enforced. A verbal agreement to pay you support cannot be enforced. You can find helpful information in the sections on child support and spousal support.
Get help to enforce a support order or agreement
Your provincial or territorial Maintenance Enforcement Program can help you enforce your support order or written agreement. To get their help, the support order or agreement must be registered with the Program. Programs may use a variety of measures to enforce support. For example, they may:
- garnishee wages, bank accounts and certain federal government payments such as income tax refunds and employment insurance benefits,
- seize personal or real property,
- require the party in default to file financial information,
- suspend or deny provincially issued licences such as a driver's licence, and
- ask the federal government to suspend passports and certain federal marine and aviation licences.
You may find information on how to register your support order or agreement on the Program's website or you can contact Program officials for information. If you are not registered with a Maintenance Enforcement Program, you may be able to enforce the order on your own through available court processes and by submitting an interception application under Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act.
How the federal government helps
The federal government does not enforce support orders and agreements directly. However, it helps provincial and territorial Maintenance Enforcement Programs and supports creditors in a variety of ways. For example, at the request of a Program, the federal government may:
- search certain federal information banks to find out where the support payer lives or works;
- intercept certain federal payments owed to the support payer; and
- suspend or refuse to issue a Canadian passport and certain federal licences held by the person who owes you support.
Locating someone who owes you support
A Maintenance Enforcement Program, or a court (at the request of a person who is owed support), can ask the government to search federal information banks to find a person who owes support. To make such a request, an official from the Program or the court must complete and submit the following forms to the Department of Justice:
Garnisheeing federal payments
If the federal government owes money to the support payer, all or part of that money may be seized to pay the support debt. Either you or a Maintenance Enforcement Program can ask the government to do this.
Two federal laws allow the government to intercept federal payments for support. These are:
- the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, and
- the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act.
Below, you can find information on what types of payments may be intercepted under each Act. You can also find information on how you can apply for garnishment of these payments.
Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act
Several types of federal payments can be intercepted under this Act to pay a family support debt. Some examples are tax refunds and employment insurance benefits.
To apply, you need the following two documents:
Mail these documents to the following address:
The Department of Justice
Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Unit
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act
Under Part I of the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act, you or a Maintenance Enforcement Program may apply to intercept:
- wages of employees by the federal government; or
- contract fees owed by the federal government to an individual contractor.
These payments may be intercepted to pay any type of judgment debt, including support.
Salaries that can be intercepted include those paid to:
- employees of federal departments and agencies;
- employees of some Crown corporations;
- members and employees of the House of Commons;
- Senators and Senate employees;
- judges to whom the Judges Act applies; and
- some court employees such as employees of the Supreme Court or the Federal Court of Canada; and
- employees of the Library of Parliament, Office of the Senate Ethics Officer, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
To apply, you need the following three documents:
- a completed application form JUS 339 (PDF, 254 kb);
- a copy of the judgment or order against the debtor issued by a court; and
- a garnishee summons issued within the previous 30 days.
If the support payer is an employee of a Crown corporation, send the documents to the corporation's head office. In all other cases, you must send the documents to the garnishment registry serving the location where the garnishee summons was issued. You can find more information in the Garnishment and Attachment Regulations. Before sending it, you may find it helpful to review this checklist to make sure your application is complete.
Under Part II of the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act, you may intercept certain federal pension benefits to satisfy a family support debt but not any other type of debt. You can find out what information you need to include in your application and where to send your application in the Pension Diversion Regulations.
If you wish, you may use the application form on the website of Public Works and Government Services Canada to intercept a pension administered by that department.
Suspending passports and licences
At the request of a Maintenance Enforcement Program, the federal government may suspend or refuse to issue a Canadian passport and certain federal marine and aviation licences in cases where a support payer:
- has missed three or more support payments; or
- is behind in support payments by $3,000 or more.
The Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act gives the government the authority to do this.
Canada cannot suspend a passport issued by another country. However, some countries may agree to suspend a passport to enforce a Canadian support order if:
- they have a reciprocal arrangement with the province or territory that is trying to enforce the order; and
- the laws of that country allow a passport to be suspended to enforce support.
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