Ottawa·Phoenix Falling

Dad blames Phoenix after child support payments vanish

An Ontario father is blaming the faltering Phoenix payroll system for withholding support payments from his children, even though the money has been deducted from his public service salary.

Father of 2 could now have wages garnisheed

A father of two in London, Ont., says child support payments haven't been reaching his ex-spouse even though the money has been automatically deducted from his public service salary. (CBC)

An Ontario father is blaming the faltering Phoenix payroll system for withholding support payments from his children, even though the money has been deducted from his public service salary.

The London, Ont., father of two, who has asked to remain unnamed, has worked for the Canada Revenue Agency for 10 years and has been paying child support to his ex-wife for about three.

In January the man decided to have the payments deducted directly from his paycheque. He assumed the money was reaching his children, aged 15 and 13.

But last Friday the man received a copy of a letter from the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Service's Family Responsibility Office informing his employer that his child support payments were $2,080 in arrears, and threatening to garnishee up to 50 per cent of his wages to recover that amount and continue making payments.

Payments were deducted from salary

That left the man baffled, because the payments have been automatically deducted from his salary for six months.

"They take it off my pay, so I don't understand how I could be in arrears," he said.

The man said his payment problems started around the same time his department switched to the Phoenix payroll system.

"The amount that is in arrears is the same amount that they've taken off since we started this [system] two and a half months ago." 

The man describes the experience as extremely frustrating, and said he's not sure how he's going to manage if his paycheque is reduced further.

"When that happens my bills are going to start falling behind. There's no way around it. I can't make up that difference."

No consolation, no answers

He said while his former spouse is aware of the problems surrounding the public service payroll system, it's no consolation.

"[It] doesn't put food on the table and pay for the mortgage and help with clothes," the man said.

He also recognizes he's not the only public servant affected by the Phoenix breakdown.

"There's some people going without pay. That is totally, completely unacceptable. If this was the private sector, Parliament would be on this immediately. But it's not. We're just getting rhetoric."

The man said he contacted the Family Responsibility Office and was told office couldn't help. No one seems to know where the money that's been deducted from his salary is now. 

A spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada, the federal department in charge of the Phoenix system, said it's looking into the issue of child support payments being withheld, but could not provide further details.