Family Mediation Canada Consultation on Custody, Access and Child Support

INTRODUCTION

Purpose of the Project

The Department of Justice Canada hired the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) to analyze questionnaires completed by members of Family Mediation Canada on issues surrounding custody and access and the Federal Child Support Guidelines. CRILF conducted a similar consultation in July 2000 with delegates to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada National Family Law Program in St. John’s, Newfoundland. To enhance comparability between the findings of the two surveys, the content of the survey instrument for both projects was kept as similar as possible.


The purpose of the second survey was to obtain feedback from mediators about their experiences with custody and access issues and the Guidelines, as well as their perceptions of the need for changes, both legislative and otherwise, in these areas. Participants were asked to comment on issues and policy options based on their professional knowledge and experience.

Methodology

To facilitate delivery of the survey, the questionnaire was handed out with the registration materials to all delegates to the fall 2000 Family Mediation Canada Conference in Hull, Quebec (see Appendix A for a copy of the questionnaire). Participants were asked to drop off their completed questionnaire at the conference registration desk during the conference. The questionnaire was translated into French by the Department of Justice Canada for the benefit of Francophone delegates.

In conjunction with the survey, a consultation on custody, access and child support issues was held during the conference to gain more in-depth information from a small group of conference participants. The consultation was led by two representatives from the Department of Justice Canada.

In cooperation with Family Mediation Canada, questionnaires were also distributed to all members who had not attended the conference (either by mail, e-mail or fax). These members were asked to return the questionnaire by mail or e-mail to Family Mediation Canada by November 28, 2000. Out of approximately 1,200 questionnaires distributed, 17 English questionnaires were returned at the conference, 108 English questionnaires were returned by mail, 25 French questionnaires were returned by mail, and 7 English questionnaires were returned by e-mail.

Organization of the Report

This report is organized into four main sections. Analysis of the survey items dealing with custody and access issues is presented in Section 2.0, and of items dealing with the Federal Child Support Guidelines in Section 3.0. Section 4.0 summarizes the overall findings of the survey and discusses policy implications. A copy of the survey instrument is contained in Appendix A. Appendix B presents a summary of participants, write-in comments.

Limitations

The most important limitation of this survey is that it was not conducted with a random sample of all mediators in Canada; thus, the results should not be generalized to the profession as a whole.

Demographics of Survey Respondents

A total of 157 surveys were completed and returned to CRILF. Of these, 42 percent (n=66) were completed by mediators, 39 percent (n=61) by lawyers, 17 percent (n=27) by social workers, and 15 percent (n=23) by psychologists/therapists[1]. Twenty-four respondents indicated an "other" profession, such as assessor, educator or judge. The majority of respondents were from Ontario (27 percent), British Columbia (21 percent) and Quebec (19 percent) (see Figure 1.1).

Respondents were asked if they practise mediation. The overwhelming majority said yes (91 percent; n=138). When asked approximately how many custody and access cases they had handled in the past year, respondents reported a wide range (0 to 2,000), with an average of 73. When asked how often they refer their clients to a lawyer, 39 percent of respondents said always, 29 percent said frequently, 29 percent said occasionally, and only 4 percent said never. The majority of respondents (75 percent) said that their cases proceed to litigation occasionally, and 16 percent said they frequently proceed to litigation. When asked how often they settle cases involving custody and access issues, 85 percent said frequently and 6 percent said always. Similarly, when asked how often they settle cases involving child support issues, three quarters of respondents (75 percent) said frequently and 7 percent said always.

Figure 1.1: Percentage of Respondents from Each Province or Territory

[ Description ]


1. Since respondents were able to list more than one profession, the figures do not add to 100.

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