British Columbia·Exclusive

'Deadbeats' in B.C. owe $538M in support

Two-thirds of court-ordered family support payments in B.C. are in arrears, with over $538 million currently unpaid by parents commonly referred to as "deadbeats."

Single parents struggling to make ends meet after breakups

Liane Basaillon says she is owed thousands in child support

8 years ago
Duration 2:45
Two-thirds of court-ordered family support payments are in arrears in B.C. This is one family's story, from both parents' sides.

Two-thirds of court-ordered family support payments in B.C. are in arrears, with over $538 million currently unpaid by parents commonly referred to as "deadbeats."

This huge amount of money owing by parents is just part of the $3.7 billion dollars of family support owed across Canada — most of it owed by men refusing to support their families following a breakup.

Liane Bisaillon is a single mom with two children aged 10 and 11. Their father is $109,000 behind in support payments which, Bisaillon says, adds a great deal of stress to daily life.

"I don't know how I am going to pay the rent," she told CBC News. "I don't know how I am going to put the kids in hockey. Hockey is very expensive, and I have a goalie."

While she cleans houses full time, her kids, she says, have learned to go without extras.

Aaron Pressman says he is not behind in his child support payments and disputes that he is liable for spousal support. (CBC)

She is also one of 30,000 B.C. spouses owed money.

"I really believe a lot of them are doing it just out of retaliation for the exes," she says. "They aren't even thinking of what it's doing to the children."

But Aaron Pressman, the father of Bisaillon's children, sees things differently.

He says he failed to pay his full child support between 2009 and 2011 because he didn't have much work and his income was so low.

He admits he only started paying the full amount to avoid jail time, but says the payments have stopped again because his bank account has been frozen by the Canada Revenue Agency for convictions for failing to file income tax returns.

"Now they have chosen to freeze the bank account so I have access to no money, and neither does she."

'That's not really a "deadbeat" dad.'

Pressman insists he's not behind in child support, just spousal support, which he believes he shouldn't have to pay.

"She can say anything that she wants. The truth of the matter is, since Feb 2007, she's received $160,000 from me. So that's not really a 'deadbeat' dad."

He insists there is a mistake in the original court order, and that he was not supposed to pay spousal support once his youngest child turned six, which was four years ago.

He says because he and Bisaillon could not afford a lawyer, the order did not reflect the agreement. He says he is trying to go back to court to get it fixed.

Officials in B.C. say about a quarter of the outstanding support payments would likely be forgiven if parents went back to court to explain why they can't pay.

Liane Basaillon says her children have learned to do without extras because money is so tight. (CBC)

"If they've got a court order they have a court order," says Chris Beresford, director of B.C. Maintenance Enforcement. "The order may be old. The order may need to be changed. Parents are very very reluctant to go back to court to change court orders."

System under-resourced?

The B.C. Family Maintenance program can deny a driver's licence or a passport to dads like Pressman who don't pay. B.C. does not post their photos online, as is done in Ontario and Alberta, but the province will seize assets and wages.

"If all of those measures fail. We can take the matter back to court and B.C. courts take child support very, very seriously," says Beresford.

"Each year there's about 50 people that are jailed. Not because they couldn't pay, but because they could and they wouldn't pay."

Still, the province has just one enforcement officer for every 725 cases.

"[That is] not enough people to chase all those files and all that money," says Rollie Thompson, a law professor from Dalhousie University. "We just have an underfunded maintenance enforcement scheme, and you start with a system that's squeezed, and squeeze it harder."


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