Family Maintenance – More than Just Spousal and Child Support

A recent decision from the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, Anderson v. Anderson, 2018 SKQB 182, seems to clarify the broad scope of powers under Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act for our province.

One common way people have attempted to enforce the Court’s orders for child and spousal support is to get a get a notice of continuing seizure.  They rely on the Act and make application to get the notice. Once it is received, the person looking to get their ordered maintenance often provides the notice to the paying parties employer, and the employer is then under an obligation to pay a significant portion of the payor’s paycheck to the payee. This has been a good and efficient way of forcing the payor to pay obligated payments without having to chase him or her around.

One question that has arisen is to what degree can the notice of a continuing seizure extend beyond the payment of what we typically think of as “maintenance” – spousal and child support. For example, can the payor’s employer be forced to pay for Court ordered mortgage payments or tax arrears for the other party?

Anderson appears to say yes.

The Court first looked at the actual definition of “maintenance order”. It noted the Act says we only need to have two criteria:

1) There a provision in an order for the payment of support; and

2) The order is enforceable in Saskatchewan.

With these very broad and easily met criteria, the Court really only had to look into the definition of support, alimony and maintenance. Luckily, a decision from 1980s already discussed this issue and had concluded that payment of third party debt on behalf of the payee is meant to provide for the benefit and welfare of that payee spouse. So, these types of payment do meet the definition of support.

Turning back to Anderson, the Court then applied the same rationale from the 1980s case to the situation of a person being ordered to continue mortgage payments for the residence of his former spouse. The Court determined that the seizure could be used for these obligatory payments as well.

So, what does this mean?

Anderson really just affirms that support pursuant to a notice of continuing seizure is not just related to the usual child and spousal maintenance, but can be extended to any Court order which extends a benefit and enhances the welfare of the previous spouse. With this in mind, I have a difficult time thinking of a situation where an order for one party to pay any money towards any family debt or ongoing financial obligation would not qualify for a potential notice of continuing seizure.

Obviously, this is something to keep in mind if you are a payee looking to collect on Court ordered payments, or a payor who thinks they might be able to wiggle out of house payments for their ex.

Give me a call if you want to talk about any of this.