Child Support Initiative:
The program of research on enforcement consists of two parts. The first part outlines the work that will be done to monitor the new and enhanced federal enforcement measures. The second outlines work on other related issues, including the feasibility of creating a Canadian "new hires" program; the characteristics of support payers; the reasons for default or compliance with support orders; and the results of the Maintenance Enforcement Survey (MES).
In some cases, the same research strategies and data sources will be used to address issues outlined under different parts of the research program. For instance, the proposed surveys of professionals and of payers and recipients will address the usefulness and impact of the federal enforcement measures as well as other related issues.
As previously mentioned, the amendments to the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act (FOAEA) and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act (GAPDA) came into force on May 1, 1997. These amendments are designed to provide provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs with new or improved federal enforcement mechanisms.
The amendments to Part l of the FOAEA now allow Revenue Canada databases to be searched for the residential address of debtors as well as their employer's name and address. The amendments also created a new section (Part III), which enables provinces to apply to the federal government to suspend, revoke or deny certain federal licences. Currently, Part III lists passports and transport (aviation and marine) licences. Although no revisions were made to Part II of the FOAEA, which deals with the interception of federal funds for child support purposes, these provisions will be monitored to assess their usefulness.
The GAPDA, which came into effect in 1983, makes federal public service employees' salaries available for support enforcement purposes. The May 1, 1997 amendments removed the requirement for a notice of intention to be served 30 days prior to the garnishment of federal salaries. This was meant to facilitate the garnishment process for the courts and support enforcement programs.
The enforcement of child support orders depends on a combination of federal, provincial and territorial activities in this area. Therefore, it would be difficult to attribute the collection of arrears to any single enforcement action. We will concentrate on identifying and implementing a set of general indicators of federal, provincial and territorial caseloads, flows and outcomes related to the use of federal enforcement measures. In addition, we will undertake studies to collect more detailed information on the cases sent for federal enforcement and to examine the interrelationships between federal, provincial and territorial enforcement activities.
3.1.1 Addition of Revenue Canada Databases to Part I of the FOAEA
- What are the success rates of provincial and federal tracing efforts before and after the amendments to Part l of the FOAEA (i.e., success rates in locating debtors and in collecting money in arrears)?
- In what proportion of cases were defaulters or assets to pay arrears located using Revenue Canada databases? In what proportion of cases were searches of these databases issued and completed? What information was used in locating debtors or locating assets to pay outstanding arrears?
- Does successful federal tracing lead to more out-of-province reciprocal enforcement maintenance order enforcement?
- What happens to cases if both provincial and federal tracing efforts are unsuccessful? Are there additional federal databases that could help in the location of debtors?
We are currently working with a provincial maintenance enforcement program to support the development and implementation of standard reporting mechanisms that will assist us in addressing these issues. We have undertaken a pilot study to examine possible indicators of the program's caseload, flows and outcomes. Once a set of viable indicators has been identified (e.g., number of tracing requests sent to the FOAEA Unit by month, number returned with complete and up-to-date addresses or employment information, number and type of actions taken), we will encourage the other jurisdictions to undertake similar reporting.
In addition, a sample of federal tracing requests initiated through the program will be tracked. Trace results and their usefulness to the program will be examined in light of the characteristics of payers and recipients, the amount and type of orders, the amount of arrears, the age of the order and so on.
A second sample of cases will be tracked at a later point in the Initiative to better monitor the impact of adding Revenue Canada databases to Part l of the FOAEA.
We will obtain data without personal identifiers from relevant federal automated systems, those of provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs, and the Maintenance Enforcement Survey.
3.1.2 Interception of Federal Funds Under Part II of the FOAEA
- What are the characteristics of cases sent to the FOAEA Unit for the interception of federal funds? Is the success or failure of the interception of funds related to particular case characteristics? Is timing of the summonses an issue for successful interception of federal funds?
- Which federal funds are intercepted most frequently (e.g., federal income tax refunds, GST credits, Employment Insurance payments)? What is the dollar amount intercepted from each source?
- Has the removal of the tax deduction for child support reduced the amounts received from Revenue Canada?
As was outlined under section 3.1.1, we will undertake a pilot study to examine possible indicators of caseload, flows and outcomes for a selected provincial or territorial maintenance enforcement program. Once a set of useful indicators has been identified (e.g., number of summonses for interception sent to the FOAEA Unit, number of successful interceptions, source of the funds, amounts garnisheed), we will encourage the other jurisdictions to undertake similar reporting.
Another objective of the study is to describe the cases that are sent for interception of federal funds. A sample of interception summonses will be tracked through the system. Outcomes will be examined in light of the characteristics of the cases (e.g., characteristics of payers and recipients, amount and type of orders, amount of arrears, age of the order and so on).
We will obtain data from relevant federal automated systems, those of provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs, and the Maintenance Enforcement Survey.
3.1.3 New Licence Denial Provisions under Part III of the FOAEA
- What is the proportion of payers in default who have a federal licence that may be suspended, denied or revoked? What proportion of payers in default have a passport?
- To what extent have the provinces and territories used this new federal enforcement measure and what is their sense of its usefulness?
- In what types of cases are notices of suspension, revocation or denial of federal licences sent by maintenance enforcement programs? Will the characteristics of these cases change over the period of the Initiative?
- Are federal licence suspensions, revocations or denials an effective warning or threat to defaulters, leading them to take action to avoid these measures? At what point do the most defaulters take action: when the province sends its initial notice, when the federal department sends its notice, or after suspension or revocation? At what stage of the licence denial process are the most payments made?
- Is there a difference in results between the denial or revocation of passports and the denial or revocation of various transport licences? Which provisions are most successful: those that restrict abilities to conduct employment-related activities; or those that are more likely to affect personal use?
We will conduct in-depth studies in each of the next three years to monitor these provisions.
A pilot study will be conducted to assess the use of federal licence denial. This study will attempt to isolate useful indicators of caseload in one maintenance enforcement program, such as the number of warning letters sent to debtors, the number and type of responses received, the number of licences denied by type of licence and so on.
A sample of cases will also be tracked in more detail to determine the characteristics of cases where a letter of intent to deny, suspend or revoke a federal licence was sent.
We will obtain data from relevant federal automated systems, those of provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs and the Maintenance Enforcement Survey.
3.1.4 GAPDA - Parts I and II
- What proportion of payers in default are recipients of federal salaries or pensions?
- Has the number of garnishments changed as a result of the GAPDA amendments?
- Have the amendments resulted in shorter time lags for placing garnishees and for the reception of funds? What are the timeframes for removing garnishees when they are no longer necessary?
There is no central reporting system to track information such as the number of applications and the amounts garnisheed under the recent amendments to the GAPDA. Therefore, we will meet with federal, provincial and territorial departments that administer the Act to develop formal reporting requirements for monitoring caseloads, flows and outcomes. These procedures should enable us to address the questions outlined above.
We will obtain data from the various federal departments that administer the Act, the automated systems of provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs, and the Maintenance Enforcement Survey.
3.2.1 Feasibility of Creating a National "New Hires" Database for Enforcement Purposes
Several American states collect information from employers on new or re-hired employees so that support enforcement agencies can locate defaulting payers and begin collecting arrears as soon as possible. Recent federal legislation in the United States requires all state agencies to have such "new hires" or "employer reporting" programs in place, and to report new and re-hire information to a national registry.
There are no procedures in place in Canada at the federal or provincial level to locate newly hired or re-hired employees or their income. The apparent importance of this enforcement tool in the United States has prompted a great deal of interest among provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs. The Department of Justice Canada has agreed to investigate the usefulness of this type of enforcement mechanism in the Canadian context and the feasibility of developing and implementing this enforcement measure in Canada.
- How successful have American "new hires" programs been in locating payers' places of work and collecting money in arrears? Do the United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand have similar programs? If so, how useful have they been? Would any of these programs or program elements be appropriate within the Canadian enforcement context?
- Are there constitutional issues involved in having employers reporting employee information to one or more levels of government?
- Is the voluntary program used by Human Resources Development Canada to track overpayment of Employment Insurance a useful starting point for developing a "new hires" program?
- What mechanisms do provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs currently use to garnishee wages (i.e., administrative or court-based)? What is the nature and extent of contacts between the programs and the employer community?
- What would be the costs and benefits of implementing a "new hires" program?
The work will be done in three phases. We have undertaken a critical review of existing "new hires" programs in the United States and other jurisdictions to identify the range of factors that federal, provincial and territorial governments will need to address in contemplating the development of such a program in Canada.
In addition, we are currently analyzing the federal, provincial and territorial constitutional issues that may arise in structuring a Canadian "new hires" program.
Once these studies have been completed, we will assess various models for structuring such a program in Canada based on their respective policy, administrative, technical and financial implications.
Information will be obtained from the following sources:
- Documentation from the U.S. Office for Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and various state programs;
- discussions and interviews with administrators, evaluators and employers who are part of the American federal and state programs;
- existing automated systems in Canadian federal departments; and
- provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs, other federal departments, the business community and associations such as the Canadian Payroll Association.
3.2.2 Identification of the Reasons for Paying or Not Paying Support Obligations
This information is needed to inform policy discussions on enforcement and to improve program delivery for both payers and recipients.
- Why do some parents default completely on payments or make partial payments only, thus incurring arrears? Why do some parents pay their child support in full and on time?
- How, and in what proportion of cases, are default and compliance linked to other related issues, such as the type of custody arrangement, the nature and extent of access, and the socio-economic circumstances of payers?
- What is the impact of default or non-compliance on the standard of living and general well-being of children affected by marriage breakdown?
- What are the characteristics of payers, including their age, occupation, income source and income level?
- Are the characteristics of payers who pay fully and on time different from the characteristics of those who don't pay or pay infrequently?
- Which payers are most likely to have federal enforcement actions taken against them, including tracing, interception of federal funds and licence denial?
A literature review was conducted to provide an overview of Canadian and international studies on default on and compliance with support orders. Particular attention was paid to the data sources and methodologies that were employed and the possibility of generalizing results. This review was used to develop a research design that will enable us to better understand reasons for paying or not paying support obligations.
A study of the determinants of compliance and default on child support orders will be conducted in several jurisdictions. Data on patterns of compliance, default and a variety of other case characteristics (e.g., socio-demographic, payment history, enforcement history) will be analyzed to guide the subsequent conducting of interviews with professionals and parents involved in the enforcement process.
We will obtain aggregate data from the National Maintenance Enforcement Survey and collect more detailed data from samples of cases from provincial maintenance enforcement programs. We will also collect data through interviews with parents and professionals working in the field.
3.2.3 Analysis of the Maintenance Enforcement Survey (MES)
The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) is collecting standardized information on support orders registered in provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs. This will provide a much-needed overview of the characteristics and financial status of support orders, and enforcement activities in Canada.
- What is the total caseload of Canadian maintenance enforcement programs? What is the distribution of reciprocal enforcement maintenance orders by jurisdiction?
- What are the characteristics of the cases referred to maintenance enforcement programs, including the age of the parties, the number of children involved and the support amounts? Under which legislation do the orders fall (i.e., the Divorce Act, or provincial or territorial legislation)?
- What is the rate of compliance? How many cases are in arrears and by how much? What has been the frequency and amount of payments? Have most payers made a payment in the last year?
- What number and type of enforcement actions did the maintenance enforcement programs take in the last year (e.g., default hearings, provincial or federal tracing, garnishment and so on)?
The CCJS has developed a set of national data requirements for the MES and is working with each jurisdiction individually to implement the survey. Most jurisdictions should be reporting to the survey by the end of FY 1999/2000. Three jurisdictions began reporting data in 1998/1999. The Child Support Team's Research Unit will analyze results as they become available.
We will obtain data from the MES.
3.2.4 Special Studies on Related Policy Issues
This section deals with issues that are not directly related to the monitoring of federal Enforcement Initiatives but are nonetheless important to the enforcement community.
- What is the range of sanctions for default imposed by jurisdictions such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand? How are civil contempt matters resolved in Canada?
- What are the timeframes for confirming reciprocal enforcement maintenance orders? What is the proportion of variations for interprovincial and international reciprocal enforcement maintenance orders?
A literature review and a survey of American and other jurisdictions using criminal sanctions will be completed by June 1999. Included in this study is a review of civil remedies used by the provinces and territories.
Data on timeframes for reciprocal enforcement maintenance orders will be requested from the Maintenance Enforcement Programs (MEP) and the results analyzed.
Key informant interviews with officials from other jurisdictions and Canadian Maintenance Enforcement Program Directors..
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