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What is a Stay of Enforcement with Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program

The Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) in Alberta plays a critical role in ensuring that court-ordered support payments are made. This program helps enforce child and spousal support payments, ensuring that the recipients receive the financial support they are entitled to. However, there are situations where a payor may seek a stay of enforcement. This article, presented by Shim Law, will explore what a stay of enforcement is within the context of the Maintenance Enforcement Program in Alberta, the circumstances under which it may be granted, and its implications for both payors and recipients.

What is a Stay of Enforcement with Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program

Understanding the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP)

The Maintenance Enforcement Program in Alberta is designed to enforce support orders and agreements made by the court or filed with the court. MEP ensures that child and spousal support payments are collected and disbursed in a timely manner. The program has various enforcement mechanisms at its disposal, including wage garnishment, bank account seizure, and the suspension of driver’s licenses and passports.

What is a Stay of Enforcement?

A stay of enforcement is a legal order that temporarily halts the enforcement actions taken by the Maintenance Enforcement Program. When a stay is granted, MEP is required to cease all collection activities for the duration of the stay. This can provide temporary relief to the payor who is experiencing financial difficulties or other extenuating circumstances that prevent them from making support payments as ordered.

Circumstances for Granting a Stay of Enforcement

The court may grant a stay of enforcement under several circumstances. It is important to understand that obtaining a stay is not a simple process and requires the payor to provide compelling reasons for the request. Some common circumstances that may lead to a stay of enforcement include:

Financial Hardship

One of the primary reasons a payor might seek a stay of enforcement is due to financial hardship. If the payor can demonstrate that they are unable to meet their support obligations due to a significant change in financial circumstances, such as loss of employment, medical issues, or other unforeseen financial burdens, the court may consider granting a stay.

Pending Court Proceedings

If there are ongoing court proceedings related to the support order, such as an appeal or a request to vary the support amount, the court may grant a stay of enforcement until the proceedings are resolved. This ensures that enforcement actions do not proceed while the court is still considering the matter.

Errors in Support Orders

In some cases, there may be errors or discrepancies in the support order itself. If the payor believes that the support order was issued based on incorrect information or calculations, they may request a stay of enforcement while these issues are addressed and corrected by the court.

Agreement Between Parties

Occasionally, the payor and recipient may mutually agree to a stay of enforcement. This can happen in situations where both parties recognize the payor’s temporary inability to make payments and agree to pause enforcement actions. However, this agreement must still be approved by the court to be legally binding.

The Process of Applying for a Stay of Enforcement

Applying for a stay of enforcement involves several steps, and it is advisable to seek legal assistance to navigate this complex process. Here is an overview of the steps involved:

Filing an Application

The payor must file an application with the court requesting a stay of enforcement. This application should include detailed information about the reasons for the request, supported by relevant documentation, such as financial statements, medical reports, or evidence of ongoing court proceedings.

Serving the Application

Once the application is filed, the payor must serve a copy of the application on the Maintenance Enforcement Program and the support recipient. Proper service ensures that all parties are aware of the request and have an opportunity to respond.

Court Hearing

The court will schedule a hearing to consider the application for a stay of enforcement. During the hearing, both the payor and the recipient will have an opportunity to present their arguments. The court will evaluate the evidence and make a decision based on the merits of the case.

Court Decision

After considering the arguments and evidence, the court will issue a decision. If the stay of enforcement is granted, the Maintenance Enforcement Program will be instructed to halt enforcement actions for the specified duration. If the request is denied, enforcement actions will continue as usual.

Implications of a Stay of Enforcement

A stay of enforcement can have significant implications for both the payor and the recipient. Understanding these implications is essential for both parties involved.

For the Payor

A stay of enforcement provides temporary relief from enforcement actions, allowing the payor time to address their financial difficulties or resolve ongoing legal matters. However, it is important to note that a stay does not eliminate the support obligation. The payor is still responsible for making support payments, and any arrears accrued during the stay will still need to be paid.

For the Recipient

For the recipient, a stay of enforcement can result in a temporary interruption in support payments, which can create financial strain. It is important for recipients to understand that a stay is temporary and does not absolve the payor of their support obligations. Once the stay is lifted, enforcement actions will resume, and the recipient will be entitled to receive any outstanding payments.

Contact Shim Law Today

A stay of enforcement with the Maintenance Enforcement Program in Alberta is a legal remedy available to payors experiencing significant financial hardship or other extenuating circumstances. While it provides temporary relief from enforcement actions, it is not a solution to the underlying support obligation. Both payors and recipients must understand the process and implications of a stay of enforcement to navigate this complex aspect of support enforcement effectively.

At Shim Law, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive legal assistance to clients dealing with support enforcement issues. Whether you are seeking a stay of enforcement or need help understanding your rights and obligations, our experienced family lawyers are here to guide you through the process. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with the Maintenance Enforcement Program and other family law matters.  Please contact Shim Law today at 403-476-2011 or book a consultation online to learn more. 

About Shim Law

Shim Law is a multicultural law firm that provides legal services to clients in Calgary and around the world. With lawyers fluent in up to 20 languages, we can provide accurate legal representation regardless of language barriers. Our practice areas include family law, real estate law, and more.

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