Prince Edward Islanders who depend on child support payments would like to see the system change.
The Department of Justice says only 76 per cent of child support money was paid in 2011. Statistics Canada shows a worse picture in 2010, with 36 per cent payments not made in an average month and a further 10 per cent not paid in full.
Jane Ledwell, executive director of the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women, said the number of payments going unpaid shows changes are needed in the system.
"The question that some of them have asked is why can it not be owed to the government rather than owed to them," said Ledwell.
"The government has so much more power to get that money, or so many more mechanisms and ways to interact with people, through the income tax system or through other means, to be able to recover that money, whereas the families can't."
P.E.I. does have a maintenance enforcement program that helps collect support money owed. New measures were implemented in January designed to improve collection rates, including reporting delinquent clients to a credit agency.
The median child support payment for one child in Canada is about $300 a month.
Revoking of driver's licences questioned
One measure used by the province to enforce payment, revoking a driver's licence, is being questioned by the council.
The province sent out 34 notices last year warning drivers their licence would be revoked if they did not pay the child or spousal support owing, and 25 of those people subsequently paid. For those who don't pay, said Ledwell, pulling driver's licences could just make the problem worse.
"It's kind of a catch-22," she said.
"Some of the grassroots individuals who've experienced non-payment have said 'No, the last thing we want you to do is take their driver's licence, because they'll just say "Well, I don't have a car. I can't work."'"
Maintenance enforcement officials say revoking someone's licence is a last resort for that reason. It's only used when all other remedies have failed, and there's evidence the person has the ability to pay.
The province says since October 2010 60 notices have been issued. Forty three paid up, and 17 had their licences revoked.
For mobile device users: Is having the government collect child support payments and pass them on a good idea?