Millions in child support remains unpaid in P.E.I.

Teresa Wright
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Auditor General Jane MacAdam answers questions following the release of her 2016 annual report in Charlottetown on Wednesday.

Close to $11 million in unpaid child support payments is currently owed to parents across P.E.I., but the organization responsible for enforcement is not doing everything it could to ensure parents and children receive their payments.

These were the findings of Auditor General Jane MacAdam in her 2016 annual report, released Wednesday.

“These payments directly impact the well-being of Island children, and a large percentage of these cases are in arrears,” MacAdam says in her report.

“Without this child support, some families may end up struggling financially and may need to turn to government financial assistance programs to provide for their children.”

MacAdam audited 19 case files within the Maintenance Enforcement Program, which is tasked with enforcement actions when payments to spouses and/or children ordered by the courts have fallen into arrears.

Over $7 million in court-ordered payments are processed by the office every year and 96 per cent of these cases are for child support.

But MacAdam found a significant amount in support payments is not being made – to the tune of $10.9 million. This represents close to 70 per cent of the total case files.

And yet, MacAdam found there are no written guidelines for staff on how to deal with parents who do not honour their child support orders, which has resulted in inconsistencies in the way these orders are enforced. 

She also found the various methods available for maintenance enforcement officers to force deadbeat moms and dads to pay up are used inconsistently and some methods are not used at all.

“These payments directly impact the well-being of Island children, and a large percentage of these cases are in arrears." Auditor General Jane MacAdam

For example, officers have the ability to cancel driver’s licences, garnish bank balances and wages and place liens on properties. They can also have federal intercept abilities, which means they can also garnish income tax refunds, employment insurance payments and GST/HST rebates. They can also report payors to credit agencies as a method of enforcement.

But MacAdam found some officers either do not use certain enforcements at all or use them only in rare or specific circumstances. Other enforcements are not used at all, including the option to report to credit agencies.

“Enforcement officers typically decide independently when and what enforcement actions to take. They also calculate adjustments to payment orders and arrears balances,” MacAdam says in her report.

“Without a review process, errors, inconsistencies and inadequate enforcement action can go undetected.”

More oversight over the trust account that holds these support payments is also needed, she said.

Additionally, she found the trust account currently contains $74,000 unassigned to any active cases, likely from overpayments or payments owing to unknown beneficiaries.

The auditor general made eight recommendations for improvement, including a call for more defined policies and procedures to guide enforcement officers in administering and enforcing court orders and agreements. She also recommended better internal controls to safeguard the payment trust account.

 

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Recent comments

  • screwedandtatooed
    March 18, 2016 - 15:20

    Just the title makes me laugh, Maintenance ENFORCEMENT, they can't or won't enforce their way out of a paper bag. In my case, the payor, who makes in the 6 digits (when the overtime worked isn't converted to time), has been in arrears for well over 2 years. And none of the enforcement tools mentioned in the article have been used to bring the arrears up to date. Oh, they send a letter stating what is owed and the due date, but the due date comes and goes and nothing. To top it off, that office of administrative bunglers make deals with payors, outside of Court orders and never informs the payee until inquiries are made to why payments and arrears aren't being paid as the Court ordered. Over paid civil servants.

  • Change needed
    March 18, 2016 - 10:08

    I think it's time to take a look into child support guidelines. They old and need to be updated. A lot of these guidelines are from back when mostly fathers would be absent from the picture but things have changed these days. More and more children are being hurt by this system and not just by financial reasons either. Each case should be looked at by a judge or someone with some authority to maybe bring BOTH parents back into the child's life on a 50/50 basis and that way no child support would be necessary as both parents would pay there own way. Too many father/mothers paying support that is not being used for their children.

  • Fed up
    March 18, 2016 - 09:45

    Just to add my two cents worth. I'm a dad that separated in 2013 from a common-law partner. Before going too far I need to stress the difference between being married and living common-law. In PEI and Quebec, common-law spouses are not entitled to property division, check it out for yourself for those that are astonished and in disbelief. So, to carry on, I, at the instructions of my lawyer paid an overwhelming amount of money to my common law partner while having the children the majority of the time, Monday to Friday to be exact. When it came to tax time, my ex filed her taxes fraud-gently and claimed less money in alimony and both children, thus placing my taxes into pre-assessment, I haven't filed taxes since. She refuses to have them recalculated and to date has summons legal aid on her behalf and is crying foul. After many conversations and a visit to supreme court, I've gone without seeing my children since. Although offered a mere consolation of supervised visits that proceeding the visit to court I quickly learned these supervised visits ordered by supreme court judge upon being recommended from legal aid, DON'T EXIST. Most recently there was a tender posted in the Guardian paper in late February looking for agencies to facilitate. My point is, and in my opinion, the legal aid department and the family law act needs to recognize that the world has changed, fathers are realized to be adequate parents and all over the world and in every government programs, fathers have been extended parental rights, as their female counterparts. The Family Law Act, Legal Aid, Victim Services needs to be over hauled, I have yet to see one single male working in those areas, which makes it highly bias and out right discriminatory. The one victory, or silver lining if you will, was having a supreme court judge state on record during the course of our session that not even she(Judge Key) can make me pay child support as they're merely guidelines, I hope other fathers read this and start to take a hard stance on these matters until we're provided equality we so deserve. Perhaps the ground will shift and one day a new landscape will appear, I hope I get supervised visits before then. FED UP.

  • Hazel
    March 18, 2016 - 08:28

    I am not surprised to see once again the vulnerable placed on the back burner as if they don't even exist. The Liberals have destroyed our Island. Yet, the people keep voting them back. When are we going to wake up see what is happening. Only those with money matter on this Island. Everything is geared towards the rich. We see on a daily basis how seniors, children, low income families do not fit into the equation. We are invisible. The Liberal government does not care at all about us. The basic personal exemption for provincial income tax stays unraised after being brought up time and again in the legislature. I beg the opposition to get down to the nitty gritty in the legislature and hold the Liberal Party accountable. Then on the other hand we have millions of our taxpayer dollars out in unsecured loans to Homburg. We need to start protesting our issues at the spring session of the legislature. Let's show up in droves to have our voices heard. Show them that we are real people who do exist even though they don't see us eating at the high end restaurants every week and flying all over the world. We are at home trying to figure out where next week's grocery money is coming from or how we can afford to keep our children in sports. A lot of seniors are trying to figure out how to pay the income tax bill that will arrive even though they make less than twenty thousand a year. SHAME ON YOU.

  • Quiet Observer
    March 18, 2016 - 08:18

    Officers shouldn't be fired - they have no training or guidance - their higher ups should be fired.

  • Concerned
    March 18, 2016 - 07:52

    WHERE IN HELL IS THIS NEW POSITION TINA MUNDY. SHE HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH HEALTH. WHERE IS OUR SO CALLED HIGH SHERIFF DOWLING. SOMEONE HEAD SHOULD ROLL OVER THIS DISGRACEFUL MANAGEMENT

  • Joe Doe
    March 17, 2016 - 23:03

    MY GOD,THESE OFFICERS SHOULD BE FIRED,WHAT ARE THEY DOING TO EARN THEIR WAGES,I JUST CAN'T BELIEVE THIS.

    • mrnobody
      March 18, 2016 - 09:54

      Do you believe everything you read? This is not factual at all. Because of a continuing misinterpretation of Section 7 of the Child Support Guidleines, men are being financially extorted by the Courts. This "audit" is merely an attempt to have the Province benefit by charging a default fee for any and all arrears balances. Other Provinces have done this, and given the admittedly poor state of provincial coffers, I guarantee that is what this nonsense is about.

  • Corrupt Judicial
    March 17, 2016 - 19:12

    Sick Justice System.

  • You Must Be Kidding
    March 17, 2016 - 19:00

    Typical PEI "abuse of process" justice. Auditor General to be commended for attempt to shed light on this deplorable situation. PEISC hang your heads in shame.

  • opinion
    March 17, 2016 - 17:11

    So, there is a task force managing these cases that are in arears? And why are they not doing their jobs? And if they are not, what are they doing? This is a shame. To the children, to the system, to tax payers... looks like the dead beat parents are in line with the dead beat enforcement officers/agency.

  • Bob
    March 17, 2016 - 14:37

    I will jump right into the fire. My wife and I have kids and can just barely support one household. If we split up I don't know where we would ever find the money to support two and then throw child support on top of that. I'm sure there really are some deadbeat Moms and Dads but I'm equally sure that most of them just don't have any extra money in their pockets. It's tough and I don't know what the solution is, but I think its more complicated than this story makes it out to be.

  • Tony
    March 17, 2016 - 11:37

    They should all be fired, ---- what is the deputy minister in charge being paid per year $ 150.000 - plus double dip pension, not to mention the Minister,--- disgraceful.

  • Clarence
    March 17, 2016 - 11:35

    So since 2007 nobody has seen fit to have a performance assessment done on this organization? Makes you wonder how many other divisions are running amok without oversight or accountability. Meanwhile Ghjiz was busy with e-gaming and giving our money away to friends and cronies. Wade is busy tailing Trudeau and covering up for Ghiz, - lovely all together. Very little public response to all this, - must be Islanders are proud of who they have voted in for the last few years. Now we have to sleep in the bed we made, - the back room boys is not suffering, - so all is well.

  • Clondike
    March 17, 2016 - 09:40

    Who is in charge if the Maintenance Enforcement Program? What department? Which Deputy Minister? Which Minister? Ineffective, and all the rest of it. Who has been closing their eyes to this mismanagement ? Fire them, -?

  • Danny
    March 17, 2016 - 09:36

    This is not only costly, but blatantly unfair. How can the government carry on with such ad hoc administration of the rules and laws? The Premier needs to take responsibility for not paying attention to that proper procedures are in place and followed. Maybe the Premier should pay a little more attention to the nitty gritty of running the Province rather than pretending his role is to be PR person for liberal governance, not only now and here, but previously and in Ottawa. You may treat this was a cushy, fun retirement job, - but that is not what a responsible Premier can get away with. You should read your book about Alex Campbell, and take a hint. You even wrote: Premier Campbell answered every letter he received himself, and fully. You have something to live up to, even on that score.

  • Taxpayer
    March 17, 2016 - 09:21

    Maybe, just maybe the Premier might stay home and preside over and make sure his government uses modern operational procedures, runs effectively and economically. Reading this makes the government look pathetic. We overpay deputy ministers to run the departments effectively, op-date and make sure taxpayers are served in the best possible way. There is absolutely no reason for running this division is such a sloppy and unmanaged way. What kind of excuse is there for not having proper, uniform processes in place? None. Perhaps Mr. Premier it is time you put in place a system by which the operation of each department and division is managed by the best possible people, which is obviously not the case now. Perhaps that should take priority over parties and receptions and other feel good fluff.

  • Deadbeat dads playinga game of continued abuse
    March 17, 2016 - 09:16

    What are the enforcement people doing??? Do they have the ability and equipment and training to do their jobs?? Is someone on ROCHFORD ST ..giving orders not to follow up on these files?KIDS are suffering here..deadbeat dads making 150,000 plus year singing poor mouth or hiding their income out west and here......by not paying they are continuing to abuse their ex's and their children....11 Million..that's scandulous ,do they need better legislation,are their legal problems...will someone dig deeper and do something here!!

  • Pauline Johnson
    March 17, 2016 - 08:58

    I am not surprised about these figures. In the 1980's, I tried through the BC Family Courts to get child support payments from my spouse here in PEI. After two years of fighting for it, I gave up. The courts in BC couldn't understand why not. Now this article has given me some answers finally. Good Luck AG Jane MacAdam.

  • Quiet Observer
    March 17, 2016 - 08:20

    Read the section on the Maintenance Enforcement Program. This is a very important and valuable program. Sounds like the program has been inadequately managed and needs a new Director.