When A Child Support Deadbeat Actually Isn’t One

Parents split up. One side doesn’t make good on support payments. Ex and children end up with the short end of the stick. It’s definitely a scenario played out more than once across this country. But for one father in London, Ontario, the culprit is a technology glitch. Now, the province’s watchdog agency for support payments is threatening to garnish his pay to make up his supposed arrears.

Troubles Began With Phoenix Payroll System

The anonymous father of two has been paying child support for three years. Early this year, he decided to have the payments automatically deducted from his pay. All went well until the Canada Revenue Agency department where he works began using the IBM-designed Phoenix payroll system. Since then, the money stopped reaching his ex-wife, and the province’s Family Responsibility Office (FRO) has come knocking.

The father only became aware of the problem when the FRO copied him on a letter sent to his employer, stating a $2080 shortfall and threatening to garnish almost half his pay to recover the amount.

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

Now, more reports are surfacing about public sector employees caught in the payroll quagmire involving Phoenix – hundreds with missing pay cheques, tens of thousands with unpaid supplementary pay, and some even overpaid.

A federal spokesman says the government is looking into the Phoenix problem. Meanwhile, his ex-spouse is aware of the problem. But no one – including the FRO – knows where the electronically siphoned funds have ended up, which leaves the children still out of pocket.

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