THE SURVEY OF CHILD SUPPORT AWARDS: INTERIM ANALYSIS OF PHASE 2 DATA

(October 1998 to March 2000)

CSR-2001-2E

1.0 INTRODUCTION

In 1990, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Family Law Committee began a study to address widespread dissatisfaction about the determination of child support. On behalf of the Committee, the Department of Justice Canada undertook a four-year program of research to help develop guidelines for determining child support amounts awarded in cases of family breakdown.

On March 6, 1996, the federal government announced its policy intentions regarding child support. The four initiatives announced were as follows:

  • to implement the Federal Child Support Guidelines;
  • to change the tax treatment of child support;
  • to improve the enforcement of support orders; and
  • to increase the allowance to working low-income families through the Working Income Supplement (WIS).

On May 1, 1997, the Federal Child Support Guidelines came into effect with the amendments to the Divorce Act. (The amendments to the Income Tax Act concerning the tax treatment of child support payments took effect on that same date.) The amendments to the Divorce Act require the Minister of Justice to review the operation of the Guidelines and report to Parliament before May 1, 2002. The program of research of the Department of Justice Canada must provide data to allow a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the Guidelines.

The Federal-Provincial-Territorial Task Force on Implementation of the Child Support Reforms established a Research and Evaluation Sub-committee to help develop the comprehensive program of socio-legal research to support the review required by the 1997 Divorce Act amendments. Given the profound change in the way award amounts are calculated under the Guidelines, the Task Force and the Research Sub-committee members agreed that the first research priority was to collect information about support orders and variation orders made on or after May 1, 1997. This project is providing some early indications about the implementation of the Guidelines, and provide for ongoing or periodic collection of information from the courts until the end of March 2002.

Phase 1 of this project began in December 1997 and ended in October 1998. This pilot phase consisted of three tasks. Task 1 was managing the initial phase of the data collection process. Task 2 was to manage and prepare data received from participating courts into a computerized database. Task 3 was to analyze the collected data. The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) was contracted to complete tasks 1 and 3.

This report summarizes the interim findings from phase 2 of the project, which began in the fall of 1998. The report is divided into two parts. Part 1 describes the processing of divorce cases involving child support orders and documents issues related to that process at the different sites involved in the project. Part 2 presents the results of the analysis of the data collected from the fall of 1998 through March 16, 2000. Data were collected at each participating site on all divorce cases involving children.

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