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3 Things to know about incarceration for not paying family support orders

Most prisoners in provincial jail have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offence, but individuals can also be imprisoned for failing to pay child and/or spousal support arrears. Imprisonment can be different for individuals who have not paid arrears, opposed to those convicted of criminal offences.

  1. Judges can order a debtor be imprisoned continuously or intermittently for up to 180 days. However, this can be avoided or shortened by paying the arrears. A debtor imprisoned for 180 days may enter custody, pay off their arrears, and be released much sooner than 180 days. They may even pay the arrears before going into custody, thereby avoiding incarceration altogether.
  2. Individuals who are incarcerated for non-payment of arrears cannot accumulate earned remission. This means they cannot shorten their term of imprisonment other than by paying their arrears.
  3. Unescorted temporary absences are typically unavailable for those incarcerated for non-payment of arrears. On the other hand, prisoners convicted of criminal offences are eligible for a temporary absence at any time.
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