The end of assigning maintenance rights: What does it mean?

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The Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation recently sent some of the people who get income or disability assistance a letter about changes to the requirement to “assign maintenance.” Some people still have questions about this change, so The Factum will try to make sense of them here. As of September 1, 2015, child support payments will no longer be deducted from income/disability assistance payments. This is good news as parents won’t have their child support clawed back.

The old rules

Before May 1, 2015, if you were divorced or separated and getting income/disability assistance, you had to sign over your rights to maintenance (child support) payments to the ministry. This “assignment of rights” allowed the ministry to take your spouse to court and get a court order for child support. If your spouse refused to pay, the ministry could send the court order to the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, who would collect the payments for you. Then the ministry would deduct that amount from your income/disability assistance.

The new rules

As of May 1, 2015, you don’t have to assign your maintenance rights to the ministry anymore.

What does this mean if I’m already receiving regular child support payments?

If your spouse pays child support regularly, your income will go up by this amount in September. You don’t need to do anything.

If you already have a child support order enrolled in the Family Maintenance Enforcement  Program (FMEP):

  • you can continue to have them enforce your order and send you the money, OR
  • you can withdraw your child support order from FMEP if you don’t want to use their services anymore.

What if I don’t want to start collecting child support?

If you don’t want to collect child support, you don’t need to do anything either.

What if I should be getting child support, but I’m not?

If you should be getting child support and you aren’t, you can still get help from the ministry. To get this help, you may now volunteer to assign your maintenance rights to the ministry so they can take your spouse to court to get a child support order.

What if the ministry has already started a case for me?

This applies even if the ministry has already started a case to get child support for you. If you don’t assign your rights to the ministry, you’ll have to take over the court case or it will end, and nobody will get the child support. If the ministry has started a case in Provincial Court and you’re going to take it over, you need to provide an updated address for service using this form: www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/forms/pfa/pfa053.pdf.

If you do volunteer to assign your maintenance rights, the ministry will help you get a child support order or agreement, but the child support payments won’t be deducted from your income assistance or disability payments.

How do I get help from the ministry?

If you want the ministry to take your spouse to court to get a child support order, you must:

  • ask the ministry to help you, and
  • volunteer to assign your maintenance rights to the ministry.

To volunteer to assign your maintenance rights, you must:

  • be getting income, hardship, or disability assistance
  • need help getting a child support order or agreement
  • not already have an order or agreement for child support for all your children
  • not be in the middle of an application to change child support yourself
  • be willing to identify the support payor who must live in BC
  • provide information to prove that the payor earns more than $10,280 per year (the ministry will not help if the payor is on income or disability assistance)

If the ministry gets a child support order for you and your spouse refuses to pay, you can take the order to the FMEP and the FMEP will collect the payments and give them to you.

To volunteer to assign your maintenance rights:

  1. Call the ministry at 1-866-866-0800.
  2. Enter your Personal Identification Number (PID) and PIN or your Social Insurance Number.
  3. Press option 2.
  4. Press option 4.

If you signed an assignment and you want to continue it, you have to contact your Family Maintenance Worker or call the ministry by June 5, 2015. If you don’t call, your assignment automatically ends, and they won’t help you get child support.

What if I missed the deadline? Can I still get help?

If you miss the deadline but want to continue your assignment or ask for help with getting child support, contact the ministry to get information about how to do this.

You can only get a lawyer through legal aid if there is family violence involved in your case. If you want to apply for a child support order on your own, you can use the self-help guides on the Family Law in BC website and get some help from family duty counsel lawyers or family justice counsellors.