Experiences with the FMEP

A particularly difficult part of navigating the current spousal support regime in British Columbia — which also includes the courts, case law, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG), and family law lawyers — is the so-called “Family Maintenance Enforcement Program,” or FMEP.

One of the problems with the FMEP is that they deal with both spousal support and child support cases. These are two quite different areas of the law: the support of children who are entirely dependent, versus that of adults who in many cases are or should be at least partly self-sufficient. There are no “deadbeat dads” in the realm of spousal support. However, the FMEP website is adorned by happy childrens’ drawings, and even the name of the organization reflects this orientation towards child support.

The FMEP takes no prisoners. They refuse to negotiate or even discuss support issues, often invoking Nuremberg defence-like arguments while dealing with payors, while essentially acting as unpaid legal representation for defendants. This page collects stories of problems encountered while dealing with the organization.

Chris R

In 2014 an FMEP agent, in the only actual voice call I have ever had with the organization, said to me ominously “We know where you live.” I interpreted this, reasonably I think, as a physical threat. FMEP agents apparently use pseudonyms — this is the only government department I’ve ever encountered that does so — perhaps to avoid accountability. Since then, as a result of this threat, and because FMEP sometimes removes and I believe might even alter communications sent and received via their site, I have insisted on using solely hard-copy communication via postal mail. FMEP no longer has my current email address, and if I move I will not willingly tell them my new mailing address. This is out of fear, rather than avoidance of support payments, which I make directly to my ex.

In 2020 I lost my job as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. I notified the FMEP, and they told me to pay what I could — which was zero, given that CERB barely covered even my housing costs. But then, without notifying me, they filed to redirect my CERB to my ex-wife, which would have left me with nothing; I was fortunate to find a job before this action could be completed. Subsequently, again without notice, the FMEP put a lien on my home, demanding I pay arrears for the time during which my income was zero — which I couldn’t do because I am out of money from over a decade of paying support, lawyers, and even my ex’s legal fees. Then when I notified them in early 2021 that I was again unemployed, their response was to threaten a credit report. They don’t even bother answering questions I have.