OPINION: About child support

There are often many sides to a story.

When it comes to child support payments, I can see both parents’ points of view.

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For more than a decade, I received child support for my kids.  I’m also married to someone who paid child and spousal support.

Changes to the provincial Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) came into effect on March 1 that aim to make it harder for so-called “deadbeat” parents to shirk their financial responsibility.

Given Squamish has 2,300 couples with children and 700 lone-parent households — based on the 2016 census — this is likely a hot-button issue for many.

FMEP, a BC Ministry of Justice program that enforces court-approved support agreements, can now tell ICBC to cancel the driver’s licence of someone who owes more than $3,000 in child or spousal support payments.

Previously, FMEP could tell ICBC not to renew the driver’s licence of a payor with arrears of more than $3,000.

Licences only need to be renewed every five years, thus it was not the most effective deterrent.

FMEP also has the power to commandeer income tax refunds and portions of other federally dispersed payments such as employment insurance benefits.

A lien can be placed against the delinquent payor’s personal property such as a vehicle, boat, trailer or manufactured home.

The ICBC-related change to enforcement is needed, but more work could be done to make the system fairer for all.

Letting the arrears get up to $3,000 can be quite a hardship on the parent waiting for that money.

Let’s look at an example of an imaginary family.

Generally speaking, if the payor makes $70,000 and the ex-spouse with custody makes $40,000, the payor will be required to pay about $650 per month in child support.

To get that up to $3,000 in arrears, several months of payments would have to be missed.

Alternatively, if there are more children or the payor’s wage is much higher, getting arrears up to $3,000 could mean one missed payment.

The arrears that trigger enforcement should be dependent on each case, not a standard $3,000.

To reduce hard feelings on both sides, the receiving parent should be required to submit receipts to FMEP to show where the bulk of the money went.

There wasn’t a month when I didn’t spend far more on my sons than what I was given. I imagine that is the case for most who receive such payments. Raising well-rounded kids, especially in the Sea to Sky Corridor, isn’t cheap.

At the same time, it is also understandable that a parent who is paying a large chunk of income to an ex would want to know the money was spent to meet the needs of the children, not the whims of the adult.

When it comes to this issue, it is the child’s story that should matter most of all.

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