For people who owe support

By law, you must comply with a support order from a court or with a written agreement to pay support. The amount of support set out in the order or agreement is the amount that you need to pay.

You cannot refuse to pay child support because the other parent will not let you see your children. Child support and child access are separate issues.

What happens if you don't pay support?

Federal, provincial and territorial laws set out a variety of tools to enforce support. The following pages explain how federal laws help to enforce the support that you owe.

If any of these tools are being used to enforce your support order or agreement, see the Resolve Enforcement Issues section for information that may help you resolve issues.

Your federal payments may be seized

If the federal government owes you money, that money may be taken and used to pay your support debt.

The Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act allows the government to take payments such as income tax refunds and employment insurance benefits for the payment of support.

If you earn income as a federal government employee or contractor, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act allows the government to take part or all of that income to pay any judgment debt that you owe, including family support.

The Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act also allows the government to take a portion of certain federal pension benefits you receive. The pension benefits can only be taken to pay family support. They cannot be taken to pay any other debt.

Your passport or federal licences could be suspended

Under the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, a Maintenance Enforcement Program may request the denial or suspension of a Canadian passport. It can also request the denial or suspension of certain federal marine and aviation licences. If you already have a Canadian passport or one of those licences, the government must suspend it at the request of a Maintenance Enforcement Program. A Maintenance Enforcement Program can make such a request only if:

  • you have missed three or more payments; or
  • you are behind in payment by $3,000 or more.

If your passport or federal licence is suspended, it is important to return it immediately as instructed on the notice you received. If you do not return your passport when asked, it will become invalid. Passport Canada can then advise law enforcement agencies. You may be fined up to $5,000 or sent to jail for up to six months, or both.

The Department of Justice cannot end a suspension until it receives a request from the Maintenance Enforcement Program to end the suspension.

In some cases, a passport or licence may expire or become invalid before the suspension ends. If this is the case, you will need to apply for a new one. For more information on what you need to do to obtain a new passport or licence, contact Passport Canada or Transport Canada, as applicable.

Other enforcement measures you may face

There may be other enforcement measures under provincial or territorial laws. For example, a court could order you to pay a fine and all the legal costs of enforcing the support order or written agreement. A court may even order you to serve time in jail if you do not pay support.

Provincial and territorial laws are different. You may wish to seek legal advice or contact your provincial or territorial Maintenance Enforcement Program for more information on the laws that may apply in your situation.

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