With the new changes to Alberta’s Family Law Act it is important to consider any impact those changes have on our Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP), the agency that deals with collection and enforcement of court-ordered child support, spousal and partner support, and MEP supports and resources.
MEP has made clear that they rely on the wording of support orders in order to enforce them, and this has not changed with the most recent changes to the Family Law Act regarding support for adult children. While the old Family Law Act outlined eligibility factors for child support ordered past the age of majority to be when a child was in full time studies and only until the child turned 22 years of age, the changes allow the court to order support for an adult child who is 18 years or older and unable to withdraw from their parent’s care due to illness, disability, being a full time student or “other cause”.
MEP’s current policy notes that for general orders granted before the child’s age of majority and where there is no specification of when maintenance/support ends, support will only continue to be enforced past the age of 18, up to the age of 22 if the child is a full time student. If child support is needed by a payee/counsel for the payee to continue after that age of majority due to illness or disability of the child, MEP requires a new court order or signed agreement from both parties clearly noting that maintenance/support payments are to continue.
For specific orders that are granted by the court for adult children and clearly specify when maintenance ends, MEP will continue to enforce maintenance/support according to the terms of the order, if the order details that maintenance/support continues due to the child’s illness or disability.
It is important to remember that MEP’s policy as outlined above is due to their position that they cannot weigh evidence and decide if an adult child should be eligible for support. As such, the wording of support orders has become even more significant in terms of MEP enforceability given the adult child support changes made to the Family Law Act.