Maintenance Enforcement Program 101

Section 7 Expenses Part 1: Enforcement of Section 7 Expenses by the Maintenance Enforcement Program 101

In Alberta, ‘the Maintenance Enforcement Program’ (MEP) collects court-ordered child, spousal, and partner support owed by one party to another. In this article, we discuss a form of child support available under the Divorce Act, section 7 expenses. In this post we briefly discuss:

  1. What section 7 expense are; 
  2. How they may be inconsistently enforced by MEP; and
  3. What can be done to ensure your section 7 expenses are properly enforced against the payor.

      A section 7 expense is a form of child support which may be paid in addition to basic section 3 child support. Section 3 child support is a standard form of child support paid by one parent to another parent, the primary caregiver. The amount paid depends almost exclusively on the payor’s income and the number of children entitled the support. Conversely, section 7 expenses are a narrow list of additional expenses which may be claimed by the recipient caregiver parent. These expenses, should they be deemed valid section 7 expenses, are often split proportionally between the parents depending on their income. The exhaustive list of section 7 categories under which expenses may be claimed are set out in the Federal Child Support Guidelines and include:

      1. Childcare expenses incurred as a result of the custodial parent’s employment, illness, disability or education or training for employment;
      2. Medical and dental premiums attributed to a child;
      3. Health related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100 annually, including orthodontic treatment, professional counselling provided by a psychologist social worker, psychiatrist or any other person, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and prescription drugs, hearing aids, glasses and contact lenses;
      4. Extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs;
      5. Post-secondary education expenses; and
      6. Extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.

                There are two issues which regularly arise when dealing with section 7 expenses. The first is whether an expense is properly considered a section 7 expense and whether it is an appropriate expense considering the parties’ circumstances. This is an issue often determined by the Courts and arises when one parent claims an expense, such as bills for a child’s cellphone, which the other parent does not believe to be a section 7 expense.

                Assuming the expense is an appropriate section 7 expense, the next issue is whether the said expense has been properly articulated in the Order to ensure enforcement by MEP. To provide guidance and reduce the number of claims it had to deny, MEP revised its policies and procedures relating to section 7 expenses. Pursuant to MEPs position, section 7 expenses are divided into two separate categories: fixed amount expenses and proportionate amount expenses. Proportionate expenses are then divided further into specific and non-specific expenses

                Fixed Amount Expenses 

                A fixed amount expense is where the payor is required to pay a set dollar amount. Where this is the case, the recipient claiming the expense does not need to complete an expense claim form.

                Example:   The Mother must pay $100 in section 7/health related expenses or, the Father must pay $700 to the child’s hockey fees.

                Proportionate Amount Expenses

                A proportionate amount expense does not set out an exact amount owed by the payor to recipient. Instead the parties split the expense proportionately, usually based on their income. Where this is the case, the recipient claiming the expense must complete an expense report before MEP will enforce the amount against the payor. Additionally, whether MEP enforces the proportionate expense will depend on the category of expense and whether a specific expense is being claimed.

                Non-Specific Proportional Amount Expenses

                MEP will generally only enforce these amounts when both partners agree to pay for the expense. This will require a section 7 agreement form and expense form to be completed. The expense form must be filled out upon payment with proof of payment attached.

                Proof of payment must:

                1. Be provided by the actual party seeking MEP enforcement;
                2. State the name of the child receiving it and the name of the service provider;
                3. State the date the payment was processed; and
                4. State the expense type.

                      Example: The Father must pay 50% of all section 7 expenses. 

                      Specific Proportional Amount Expenses

                      MEP will generally only enforce these amounts where certain conditions are met. Please follow the guide below for procedure requirements for each category of expense and examples:

                            1. Childcare expenses:  When dealing with childcare expenses, the expense claimed do not need to be more specific than childcare.
                              • Example: The Mother will pay 70% of all childcare expenses.
                            2. Medical and dental premiums: When dealing with medical and dental premium expenses, only the difference between an individual and a family plan will be covered. On a practical note, you must have proof that the child is covered by the plan.
                              • Example: The Father will pay for 45% of the difference in cost arising from the purchase of a Family Medical and Dental Insurance as compared to an Individual Medical and Dental Insurance Plan.
                            3. Health related expenses:  When dealing with health expenses, the expenses MUST be specific (prescription drugs or glasses). Vague or non-specific Orders will not be enforced.
                              • Example: The Mother will pay 65% of costs arising from the purchase of prescription glasses or contact lessons for the child.
                              • It is insufficient to state: The Father will proportionally pay 50% of all health expenses incurred on behalf of the child. Vague statement like this may not be enforced.
                            4. Extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school: When dealing with extraordinary schooling expenses, only specific expenses will be enforced.
                              • Example:  The Mother will pay 55% of all tutoring expenses.
                              • It is insufficient to say: The Father will pay 40% of all extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or for any other educational programs. Vague statements like this may not be enforced.
                            5. Expenses for post-secondary education: When dealing with post-secondary education expenses, only tuition and textbooks will be covered if the Order does not explicitly contemplate other expenses.
                              • Example: The Mother must pay for 40% of all post-secondary expenses. This would only cover tuition and textbooks.
                              • Example: The Father must pay for 80% of all post-secondary expenses including board or residency fees and a monthly bus pass. This would cover tuition, textbooks, board and transport
                            6. Extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities: When dealing with extraordinary extracurricular activities, MEP will only enforce specifically named activities and all expenses related to that activity that do not properly fall under s. 3 expenses.
                              • Example: The Mother will pay for 70% of all the children’s hockey. This would cover initial hockey registration fees for example but would not cover the gas expended to drive to weeknight practices as travel expenses for the children would properly fall under section 3.

                      We hope you found this posting informative! We make regular posting relating to various family law issues. Check back in next week to see what is new!

                      If you have any further questions on your children’s section 7 expenses, please book a consult and get individualized advice on you and your children’s legal rights and obligations regarding child support. Call us at 587 - 390 - 3070 or leave us a message on our website and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

                      The above information provides general information on how to draft an Order to increase the likelihood of MEP enforcing your claimed section 7 expenses. Despite strict adherence to the above guide, your claims may still be rejected or unenforced for various reasons. Additionally, the above information does not constitute legal advice. EBL Family is not liable for any reliance on the above information.