Bracing for Difficulty

Authority Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

After paying a bill for his son’s orthodontic expenses, Kent went to court and obtained an order that his former spouse pay for a portion of the bill. Because Kent was registered with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, his former spouse paid the $1,000 to the FMEP, which in turn, sent Kent the money. Kent then paid his credit card, relieved that the problem was fixed.

However, Kent was an income assistance recipient. When the ministry learned he had received $1,000 from the FMEP, it deducted that amount from his assistance. Back at square one and without funds to support himself or his children for the month, Kent contacted us. He thought it was unfair, but doubted there was anything we could do: the ministry said their policy was strict. FMEP fund transfers were income.

We investigated. Funds transferred into an account through the FMEP were classified as income, so the ministry believed nothing could be done. In other words, if Kent could have had his former spouse pay the orthodontist directly, the ministry would not have considered the funds income.

We explained our understanding: a court had ordered that $1,000 was to go toward paying the orthodontic expense that Kent already paid. By deducting the money from the Kent’s assistance, the ministry had effectively rendered the court order meaningless, as far as Kent was concerned. After asking the ministry to provide further information and reconsider its position, the ministry confirmed that a decision was made to issue Kent a cheque for the amount specified in the court order.

Names in our case summaries have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. This case study can also be found in the 2016-2017 Annual Report.

Category Income and Benefits
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2016
Location Vancouver Island / Sunshine Coast