1. What is the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP)?

If you have a court order or registered separation agreement dealing with child support or spousal support, you can have the support amounts enforced through the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). MEP is a provincial government program through which all court orders for support must be filed (registered). When a support order is issued anywhere in Nova Scotia, a copy of the order is automatically sent to MEP.

There are similar programs in every province and territory, although they may be called different things in different provinces. For example, in Ontario, it is the ‘Family Responsibility Office.’ The case worker assigned to your file is your ‘enforcement officer.’ You will also be given an MEP case ID number for your file that is different from your court file number.

For more information about MEP and what they do, click here.

For MEP information for lawyers, click here.

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2. Do we have to go through MEP?

If your order deals with child support or spousal support, there has to be a clause (section) in your order about the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This section must be in an order dealing with support, even if you and the other party agree to not put your payments through MEP. This is called 'opting out.'

If you and the other party agree that you will not go through MEP, you must state this in writing, and both of you must sign this document. You can check with your enforcement officer about what form to use.

Even if you opt out of the program, it only takes one of you to opt back in, if you need to. This is why the clause about MEP must be in your order.

If you have been in MEP for awhile and no longer wish to be, you may send a letter asking to withdraw from the program. Again, both you and the other party will need to consent to this in writing. This request may or may not be approved, depending on your situation. For example, if there are arrears owing (if your payments are not up-to-date) or if there is money owed to the Department of Community Services, you may not be approved to withdraw from the Program. You will be notified of the decision.

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3. Can we go through MEP, even if we don’t have an order?

If you wish to have your support payments enforced through the Maintenance Enforcement Program, you must have a court order or a separation agreement that is registered with the court to do this. You cannot go through the Maintenance Enforcement Program on your own, without an order or court-registered agreement.

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4. What do I do if the other party isn’t paying their support?

If you have a court order or registered separation agreement that deals with child support or spousal support, and the other party is not paying, you should contact MEP at (902) 424-0050 in the Halifax area, or toll-free at 1-800-357-9248 from anywhere else in Nova Scotia. You will need your case ID and PIN. If you don't know these, call (902) 424-0934 in the Halifax area, or toll-free 1-855-322-0934 from anywhere else in Nova Scotia, or e-mail nsmep@gov.ns.ca for assistance.

Sometimes, if your order is not specific enough, it may be difficult for MEP to enforce. For example, if you have special expenses for child support and your order just says the parties will split these costs 50/50, without giving a dollar amount, MEP may not be able to enforce this. The more specific the amounts are in your order, the better.

If you are already enrolled with MEP, you will need to speak with your enforcement officer if you are having difficulty getting your support payments, or if the other party is not paying. You will need to give MEP as much information as possible about where the person is working, whether they are on EI, and so on, to help MEP do their job.

If MEP is not enforcing the order, there may be other options available to you, but you will need to get advice from a lawyer about what to do.

If you and the other party have a separation agreement, you can register the agreement with the court. Once it is registered, it is a ‘court order,’ and support amounts can be enforced through MEP.

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5. Can the Maintenance Enforcement Program enforce amounts for special or extraordinary expenses?

Sometimes, if your order is not specific enough, it may be difficult for MEP to enforce. For example, if you have special expenses for child support and your order just says the parties will split these costs 50/50, without giving a dollar amount, MEP may not be able to enforce this. The more specific the amounts are in your order, the better.

For information on this issue, please click here.

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6. How do I enrol with the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP)?

The court will send a copy of your order to MEP. Once your order is registered with MEP, they will send a Notice of Enrollment to both parties, and will send out an Enrollment Kit (to the person receiving the support, and sometimes to the person paying as well). You can access enrolment forms here.

If you and the other party agree that you do not want payments to go through MEP, you can opt out. If you choose to opt out, both of you will need to sign a letter consenting to opt out, and this must be filed with MEP within 10 days of you receiving your Notice of Enrollment. Either of you, without the other party’s consent, can opt back into MEP at any time.

When you are enrolled with MEP, the person paying support (the ‘payor’) makes payments through the Program. MEP then sends the payment to the party receiving the support (the ‘recipient’). Payments are usually made through post-dated cheques, or direct withdraw/deposit through your bank. Speak to your enforcement officer about the options available to you.

If you opt out, you will be responsible to collect payments or make payments to the other party. 

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7. What can my enforcement officer do?

If the payor fails to make payments, MEP may take action. Enforcement officers have many options that they can use to enforce a support order. The enforcement officer may start by phoning or sending a letter to the payor. The Enforcement officer may garnish (legally seize) wages or other payments such as income tax refunds, Canada Pension Plan benefits and employment insurance benefits. They may also seize bank accounts, suspend driver’s licenses, or prevent someone from getting or renewing a Passport. The enforcement officer can also start a court application against the payor.

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8. How much of my income can be garnished?

The amount of a garnishment depends on the source of the income to be garnished, and the amount owed in support payments. In addition to the regular monthly support payment, a garnishment on wages for arrears is usually a maximum of 25% of the payor’s gross (before tax) income. MEP can garnish up to 50% of a federal pension or employment insurance benefits, and 100% of income tax refunds, GST credits, or lottery winnings.
 

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9. Can my enforcement officer change the amount of support in my order?

No. MEP does not have the ability to change your support order, only to enforce it. If you want to change your court order, you generally must make an application to the court to do this.
 

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10. Can MEP enforce an order from another province/country?

MEP can enforce support orders that come to them through official channels for registration. Usually courts provide certified copies of court orders directly to MEP, or these orders sometimes come through maintenance enforcement programs in other provinces or countries. You may contact MEP or the court to get more information about your situation.
 

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11. How do I get in contact with my enforcement officer?

The main way to reach your enforcement officer is to leave a message for them through the MEP info-line at (902) 424-0050 in the Halifax area, or toll-free at 1-800-357-9248 from anywhere else in Nova Scotia. You will need to leave a message for your enforcement officer, and the officer will return your call. You will need your case ID and PIN for this. If you don't know your case ID and PIN, call (902) 424-0934 in the Halifax area, or toll-free 1-855-322-0934 from anywhere else in Nova Scotia, or e-mail nsmep@gov.ns.ca for assistance. For more information on how to use the info-line, click here.

You may also be able to log on to MEP online, if you are set up for this. If you are using the info-line or MEP online, you will need your case ID and PIN for this. Your MEP case ID number is not the same as your court file number.  

In the Spring of 2013, all Maintenance Enforcement offices were consolidated into one office location in New Waterford. All other MEP offices in Nova Scotia have been closed.

Visit MEP's website here.

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12. What is a Record of Payment?

A Record of Payment is a print-out from MEP that shows the dates when support payments were made, and how much the payments were. When you are applying to the court to change or end your support order, you will usually need to get a copy of your Record of Payment from your enforcement officer to show the court.
 

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