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 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.
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 FMEP, 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 FMEP know.
To do this:
- Gather the documents and information FMEP might need.
- Sign in to your web account.
- If you don’t have FMEP web email, follow the instructions to set one up.
- Send a web message explaining your situation.
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 FMEP web account to your FMEP 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 FMEP 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:
- Lawyer Referral Service
- free (pro bono) legal clinics
- family duty counsel
- family advice lawyers
- family justice counsellors
You're not alone. Many families are experiencing financial hardship and are uncertain how to make ends meet.
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.