For anyone (everyone) who has been frustrated with the Nova Scotia Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP), change is coming!
Last fall, the Department of Justice started a review of MEP, with a focus on client service. As part of this review, the Department heard from participants in the program, both in person, and in writing.
The MEP Review Committee produced a report in May 2015 that sets out twenty-seven recommendations in five areas: Communication and Program Information, Enforcement, Court Orders, Staffing Structures and Skill Sets, and Technology.
The Minister of Justice has accepted all of the recommendations, and some of the changes have been implemented or are underway. A copy of the Minister’s report, which includes a summary of the recommendations, can be found by clicking here.
In particular, the Minister’s report recognizes that enforcement is one of the most frustrating aspects of the MEP program. The focus of MEP is shifting to be more proactive about enforcement, rather than reacting when arrears are already adding up.
MEP will also be focusing on cases that are the most difficult to enforce, and there will be more monitoring of these files, including regular case reviews.
One area that remains the most problematic is the enforcement of special or extraordinary expenses (also known as section 7 expenses). Court Orders often only refer to sharing the expenses (ex. the parents will equally share the hockey expenses) because these amounts constantly change. But MEP is only able to enforce a specific amount, which creates difficulty if one parent is not contributing their share.
MEP is also making it easier for participants to figure out who they should contact if they have an issue or questions. MEP Online will show someone their caseworker’s name and phone number.
If you have questions about whether MEP is appropriate in your situation, you can look at the MEP website http://novascotia.ca/just/mep/, or one of our Family Law team would be happy to speak with you about this.