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.
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.
“The problem is [MEP] is legally required to enforce the court order, so they’re stuck, in my case, with a court order that doesn’t make sense,” he said.
He said despite years of unemployment, his arrears kept accumulating. He now owes almost $100,000 and describes himself as one of Nova Scotia’s “biggest deadbeat dads.”
“It’s a huge debt that I need to get rid of, and I can’t get rid of it,” he said. “I can’t take on a second job because that just increases my monthly amount. I can’t get rid of the arrears.
“My only option is going to be to quit my job and go back to working temporarily. It means I won’t be able to give the kids money anymore, but I’ll have enough money to live on again. It’s a terrible choice to [make].”
On Friday, the man told Global News he found out MEP lowered his arrears payments. He said it will help, but not enough to allow him to support both his children and himself.
MEP director Judy Crump said she has heard of similar cases with court orders in place that are based on a salary the payer no longer earns.
“That is where the program has no discretion to change that court order, and the payer’s responsibility then is to go back to the court,” she said.
The father said he plans to go back to court, but added it’s a process that can take years and there’s no guarantee the court order will change. He said MEP should use more discretion when enforcing court orders.
Crump said MEP can’t negotiate on the regular court-ordered amount. She said while the program has an obligation to enforce those amounts, there can be some leeway with the amount collected for arrears, which is set at 25 per cent of a person’s gross wage earnings.
“There can be a discussion with the payer based on financial information provided to reduce that amount,” she said.
According to Crump, MEP looks after about 14,575 cases, and 8,425 of them are in arrears.
MEP ‘stuck with unenforceable orders’
During the province’s spring legislative session, which began Thursday, the government is expected to introduce amendments to the Maintenance and Custody Act. According to the Liberals’ legislative agenda, the changes will include “providing enforcement remedies for failure to comply with court orders.”
The father who spoke to Global News said he believes the problem isn’t with the enforcement program, however, because it’s “stuck with unenforceable orders.” He said the issue is court orders that don’t properly reflect a person’s income.
“There’s not much point in people criticizing MEP for being unable to collect payment when people simply don’t have the money,” he said.
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