If you're struggling to pay support

Provincial Court
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If you can no longer afford to pay your support payments because of changes to your employment or financial situation, don't wait until you owe money before you act. Even if the change to your financial situation is temporary, it's important that you don't fall behind in your payments.

Remember, if you have an order or agreement to pay child or spousal support, you're expected to pay the support amount until it's changed or cancelled. If you're unable to pay the full amount of support, pay whatever you can.

If you're registered with the BC Family Maintenance Agency (BCFMA), let them know about the change to your situation and talk about alternative payment options with them.

If the change to your situation is significant or long-term, you might be able to:

  • negotiate a reduction in your payments with the person you pay support to, or
  • apply to court to change your support order or agreement.
Legal Aid BC has limited representation services for family law issues to help people who wouldn’t normally qualify for a legal aid lawyer. Legal aid lawyers help clients prepare for mediation, negotiate a settlement, or represent themselves in court. They don’t help with divorce applications. Call Legal Aid BC to find out if you qualify.]

Negotiating other payment options

Before you involve the courts, try to explain your financial and employment situation to the person you pay support to. Ask if they'll agree to you paying a reduced amount for now and restarting the regular support once your situation improves.

If negotiating with the other person doesn't work, and especially if the change to your financial situation is long-term, try to change your order or agreement to an arrangement that's more appropriate.

Changing a court order or agreement

Usually if you can’t pay support because your financial situation has changed, you can ask the court to change or set aside (replace all or part of) your court order or agreement. The courts can choose to change the amount you pay if the existing arrangement is unfair or is causing you financial hardship.

To change a Provincial Court child or spousal support filed agreement or order, make an application through your local Provincial Court registry. You can use Legal Aid BC's step-by-step guide for changing an order or agreement for help.

See also the BC government website Q&A page about support for more information.

If you’re registered with BCFMA, you must contact your case manager as soon as possible to let them know about the change in your financial and employment situation.

If the person you pay support to agrees to a temporary reduction, make sure that both of you let BCFMA know.

To do this:

  1. Gather the documents and information BCFMA might need.
  2. Sign in to your web account.
  3. If you don’t have BCFMA web account, follow the instructions to set one up.
  4. Send a web message explaining your situation.

If you need help, contact family duty counsel or call a family justice counsellor at 1-844-747-3963.

Try to pay your regular maintenance payment or at least pay part of it, if you can.

If you're behind in your support payments and there are arrears, you can send a message through your BCFMA web account to your BCFMA case manager about the arrears. This is especially important if there's an enforcement order that requires you to pay an amount on the arrears or face jail time.

If there’s an enforcement proceeding in court, contact the Provincial Court Registry where your matter is supposed to be heard. You may be able to apply to suspend, change, or cancel the enforcement order, especially if BCFMA takes serious action against you that includes the possibility of jail time.

If you want to try to change your order or agreement, see Step 6 of Attend a committal hearing (for payors).

Get legal advice

It's a good idea to get legal help before you try change an order or agreement. A lawyer can give you advice specific to your situation. If you can't afford a lawyer, you can get legal help in other ways, including:

 

Legally reviewed in March 2023
Wellness

You're not alone. Many families are experiencing financial hardship and are uncertain how to make ends meet.

Mediation support

If you need help to discuss the situation with the person you pay support to and you can’t afford to pay a mediator, you can contact a family justice counsellor (1-844-747-3963) for free mediation.

You could also try to contact a family mediator to help you and the other person reach an agreement. See the Mediate BC website to learn more about mediation and their free monthly online clinics.

Updated on 4 June 2024