Summary of Activities for the Child-centred Family Justice Fund 2003-2009

Appendix I: Jurisdictional Breakdown of Activities (Part 3)

Alberta

  • Alberta offers Parenting After Separation, seminars where the parents receive information on relationship issues, the effects of separation or divorce on parents and children, parenting plans, communication skills, and, legal matters including child support, guardianship, custody and access. The program is available to family law parties in either Court of Queen's Bench or Provincial Court at no cost to the participant. It is mandatory for all applications made in the Court of Queen's Bench, for litigants who have dependent children 16 years or younger, and is offered in twenty-five centres. Participants must attend the entire 6 hour course and parties may make a request to attend together or apart. Alberta undertook to evaluate that course.
  • Parenting After Separation for Families in High Conflict is a pilot project in Edmonton and Calgary. It is an additional three hour program to supplement the regular Parenting After Separation Seminars. Participation in the seminar can either be mandated as it is in all high-conflict cases where counsel or parties apply for case management, or, parties may volunteer to attend. The purpose of the high-conflict seminars is to clearly explain to parents the damage that is being done to their children by the ongoing conflict. It also provides practical advice on how to minimize conflict, set healthy boundaries and parallel parenting plans.
  • Mediation clients are referred by way of the Family Law Information Centres (FLICs), the Parenting After Separation seminars, Family Court Counselors, the judiciary and the family law bar. The Alberta Department of Justice now provides for the mediation of provincial family court disputes as well as divorce matters throughout the province. The services are provided at no cost to parents and families with a child less than 18 years of age or when one of the adult parties involved has an annual income of less than $40,000.
  • The Court Services Division of Alberta Justice has operated six Family Law Information Centres (FLIC) since 1997. These offices provide information and materials on child support; making or opposing family law applications, including custody and access; access enforcement; spousal support; reduction or cancellation of arrears and stay of enforcements; and ex parte restraining orders, protection orders on notice and emergency protection orders. The Centres have produced a series of 27 self-help booklets which describe court procedures for Divorce Act applications in the Court of Queen's Bench. Kits and forms are available for Family Law Act applications for those not under the Divorce Act. Litigants may be assisted in determining what information should be included in the court forms, what information should be obtained from the other parent and how to complete the required forms. The Centres also assist parties in calculating child support amounts.
  • The FLICs also host three special projects: the Dispute Resolution Officer in Calgary; the Child Support Resolution Officer in Edmonton; and the Court Generated Orders (CGO) in Edmonton and Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat. The CGO is designed to similarly eliminate delays in drafting and filing orders. With a specific aim at helping those who are self-represented or are seeking restraining orders, the program was started in Edmonton and has already been expanded to Calgary due to its initial success.
  • The Maintenance Enforcement Program's Special Investigations and Financial Examinations Unit has also been expanded to Southern Alberta. It has expanded its operations over the past years to include field investigations such as physical surveillance of defaulting debtors. Also, extensive research was conducted over the past 4 years and a service gap was identified in facilitating access to the Child Access Compliance Service. This service will have a compliance and facilitation role in promoting parent-child contact. It is expected to begin some monitored exchanges in early 2009.
  • Alberta conducts research for the feasibility of establishing a Child Support Advance Fund. The fund would provide a limited monthly advance of maintenance to creditors who are in need that will allow families to budget and address housing and food costs, as well as costs relating to education and child care.

British Columbia

  • The Family Justice Registry Program (Rule 5 Project) requires all parties to a family court application to attend a “triage” session with a Family Justice Counsellor (FJC) prior to a first appearance in family court. This program operates in Vancouver, Surrey Nanaimo and Kelowna. During the triage session, the FJC will discuss methods of dispute resolution, assess the particulars of the parties' case and make appropriate referrals. During 2006-07, 47% of mediation cases were closed without a court appearance. The Comprehensive Child Support Service (CCSS) operates at the Family Justice Registry sites and consists of services provided by a Child Support Officer (CSO), an advice lawyer and a Family Maintenance Enforcement Project (FMEP) Outreach Officer.
  • In 2003‑2004, it became a mandatory requirement to attend a Parenting After Separation (PAS) session prior to an appearance in court at 13 court locations in the province. In addition, voluntary programs operate in six other communities throughout BC and “specialised” PAS sessions are offered in Chinese and Punjabi in the Greater Vancouver Area.
  • British Columbia's Web site for children and (pre) teenagers has received international recognition from the American National Child Support Enforcement Association and the International Heads of Agencies. The Web site provides children and youth with practical, emotional and legal information on separation and divorce to better enable them to prepare for and cope with the conflict and changes their families are experiencing. Links to the Web site from over 30 other Web sites were established to increase client awareness and access.
  • The toll-free public enquiry line continues to provide basic information about a wider range of family justice topics and provide a comprehensive list of services available for further assistance. In 2006‑07, the enquiry line received an average of 703 calls per month.
  • British Columbia worked to improve their enforcement measures. To increase the effectiveness of family search efforts, changes to the computer system were made and a business process review was undertaken. Enhancements to the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program Web site included a Notice of Attachment calculator to assist employers in determining the amount to submit when a payer's wages have been attached. The FMEP also developed and delivered a Call Excellence Training program to staff and managers with a focus on handling conflict over the telephone. The effectiveness of this and other improvements was measured through a customer satisfaction survey.
  • British Columbia continues to be active in the area of research and evaluation, including the ongoing participation in the federal Department of Justice's Survey of Selected Family Courts project. Some examples of work in addition to this are an evaluation of the Family Justice Registry (Rule 5) and CCSS pilot projects and the preliminary work completed to support a longitudinal study of the impacts of dispute resolution services. The Children in Mediation project gives children a voice in the dispute resolution process by involving them, on a carefully selected basis, in discussions with Family Justice Counsellors. The project is also being evaluated.
  • British Columbia is developing and implementing IT/IS customer service process enhancements such as the FPT Virtual Project Management Office, and will conduct other activities related to enhancing customer service processes.

Yukon

  • The Yukon parent education curriculum has been modelled on Manitoba's For the Sake of the Children program which is a natural fit with the existing counselling and parent education programming. The post-separation workshops have been mandatory for all parents since December 1, 2006. Yukon Family Services Association has also piloted a Kids in Transition program to provide similar educational experiences for children experiencing separation and divorce. Children were sorted by age group and attended six one-hour sessions.
  • The Yukon has also created Family Law Information Centre and accompanying website after the recommendations of 2004‑05 feasibility study. In 2008‑2009, Yukon was planning to expand the services of the FLIC and its website in conjunction with updates to court forms and procedures as well as updating the “Family Law Court Procedure Booklets” in English and French. The Yukon was also planning a focus group session with community stakeholders and members of the judiciary to identify and address challenges in the implementation of the FLIC service expansion and to confirm the accuracy of the updated and expanded court procedure materials.
  • Collaborative law enables parties to sit down with their lawyers in a series of four-way meetings to deal with some or all of the matters arising from their separation. An essential component of collaborative law is a commitment by the spouses and their lawyers that they will not go to court during the time they are in the collaborative law process. Should the process fail, the collaborative lawyers cannot act for their client in court proceedings. While Yukon Justice does not directly fund collaborative law, they do provide funding for training in collaborative law while informing people about and encouraging collaborative law. However, non-government lawyers deliver this service in the territory.
  • A major information campaign initiative was launched by the Government of Yukon to reach First Nations and rural Yukoners who could benefit from the programs and services offered but who may not have done so in the past. This campaign includes a series of innovative radio ads on child support and parent education aimed at a First Nations and rural audience. A Family Justice Information Session was also held to inform service providers, lawyers and interested member of the public about issues such as maintenance enforcement and Child Support Guidelines.
  • One of the best-received projects of the Government of Yukon was the publication of French and English versions of a Yukon Guide to Family Law. It is a user-friendly, Yukon-relevant, “one-stop shopping” booklet that explains child support procedures and available local resources. Another effective publication is Splitting Up—A Yukon Guide to Separation and Divorce which covers a wide range of family law subjects and was updated in 2007.
  • The first seven booklets in a series of Family Law Court Procedure Booklets to assist self-represented parents to deal with family law issues in the courts were produced in 2005. These booklets address issues related tot child support.
  • The mandate of the Yukon Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) is to assist parents registered with the program to collect or pay their child support and spousal support. The MEP revised, updated and distributed program materials such as forms, information sheets and related registration documents. The territory undertook a feasibility analysis for an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system specifically designed to interface with the current MEP computer system. The study indicated that an IVR system would have an overall positive impact on the MEP office as it could provide access to claimants, respondents and other jurisdictions for inquiries when the MEP office is closed and could reduce the number of routine phone calls that staff must handle. The MEP was also the recipient of funding for an advertising campaign that was part of a Canada-wide strategy to promote awareness.
  • Over the past few years, the Yukon MEP has also investigated the possibility of setting up a direct deposit service that would allow the program to deposit support payments directly into client accounts. The recent completion of the new MEP computer system and advances in computer banking technology may now make a direct deposit service for Yukon MEP clients more feasible. The MEP also improved client access through the creation of the MEPline for access via telephone and supplemented that with internet access to accounts.
  • Yukon is exploring the feasibility of providing a supervised access service for children of separating or divorcing parents. They also conduct a Recalculation Service Feasibility Study. The project will examine the feasibility of creating a Child Support Recalculation Service that meets the needs of Yukon residents. A contractor will be engaged to prepare a feasibility analysis.

Northwest Territories

  • The Parent Education Program has been gradually expanding to serve the communities outside of the central capital. Attendance is voluntary and extended family and community support workers are welcome. In addition to the workshops, the staff have been offering the community social service professionals a professional development workshop to encourage referrals and promote public awareness of the program. They are now working on designing and implementing a new parenting after separation program. The goal is to design a program model that can be delivered efficiently to parents undergoing a separation/divorce in the Northwest Territories taking into consideration the geographic, demographic and linguistic diversity of the residents.
  • The Maintenance Enforcement Program has made improvements to the Child Support Management system enabling the program to improve client services, reporting and auditing functions. This also allowed for further staff time to be dedicated to client services including the toll-free information line.
  • NWT continues to promotepublic awareness and understanding in relation to child support guidelines in a number of ways including distributing information materials on both the federal and territorial guidelines and other general information. Such information is also made available through offering and promoting programs such as the Parenting After Separation and/or Divorce Sessions. The NWT used the fund for their work towards the publication of Family Law Guide for NWT residents; producing the final two (in a series of six) brochures designed to inform individuals about legal concepts and court procedures in the area of family law; and a series of self-help kits that are designed to enable individuals to navigate themselves through particular court processes, such as obtaining a divorce order. The shortage of lawyers in the Northwest Territories is preventing individuals from obtaining timely court remedies in the area of family law. Self‑help kits are not designed to serve as a substitute for professional legal advice, however it is expected that they will help individuals to obtain certain legal remedies in a timely and less expensive manner.
  • Northwest Territories continues to be an ongoing participant in the federal Department of Justice's Survey of Selected Family Courts project. The Program Coordinator for the NWT also continues to monitor the FPT work with regards to recalculation services for child support though it does not yet offer such services.
  • As for the family law mediation program, Northwest Territories are developing a new program model built on the successes of the previous pilot program while incorporating minor adjustments to the method in which the program is delivered. It is anticipated that the program be operational for the last four months of the 2008‑2009 fiscal year. The mediations will be conducted in-person in various communities and by way of teleconference for individuals living outside of the major city centres, and are designed to deal with child support, custody and access issues following a separation or divorce.
  • A feasibility study will be conducted to assess the operational costs associated with creating/maintaining a database as well as human resource costs associated with training employees and/or creating new employment positions. The survey collects data on the amounts of child and spousal support awarded, the income level of parents, the age and living arrangements of the children, special expenses and other characteristics of the orders.

Nunavut

  • The Nunavut Department of Justice's Inuusirmut Aqqusiuqtiit (IA) program was designed to increase access to family justice services in the territory by providing community-based family law information and dispute resolution services to assist parties in settling family matters (such as custody, access and support) arising from relationship breakdown. The program provides an innovative dispute resolution, counselling and information program that combines southern-based mediation techniques with traditional Inuit approaches to problem solving in order to deliver culturally relevant dispute resolution services to Inuit people. While the program suffered due to the fact that it was without a Program Coordinator for almost all of 2007, it remains an important part of Nunavut's family law system.
  • The Family Support Office has developed a Nunavut-based Parenting After Separation Program. To ensure community participation in the program's development, the Nunavut Department of Justice established a working group to review parent education programs in other jurisdictions and to make recommendations for the creation of a Nunavut parenting program. The program will offer workbooks in English, Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun and French and will be facilitated following the model of other jurisdictions.
  • The Nunavut Maintenance Enforcement Program currently employs a manager and four enforcement officers. A new automated system called Childview Software was purchased from the Yukon and went into use in May 2006. These activities also support the work still being done to create a new Maintenance Orders Enforcement Act.
  • There will be an effort by the Nunavut Program Coordinator to spearhead Public Legal Information campaign aimed at addressing the continuing need for people in Nunavut, especially in remote communities, to be educated about their basic family law rights and responsibilities. This effort will include holding information sessions in four different communities (Sanikiluaq, Cape Dorset, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay) to explain the wide variety of services available.
  • Nunavut now operates a Financial Examinations Pilot Project. The objective of the project is to meet with the debtors and try to reach payment arrangements on their arrears before setting the matter with the Courts. The pilot project would be tested in Iqaluit this fiscal year and if successful, plans would include establishing financial examinations in the communities where the Maintenance Enforcement Program accounts have the largest amounts of unpaid child support outstanding.
  • Another example on how Nunavut used the money from the fund is by hiring a consultant to carry out community consultations to finalize drafting of the Maintenance Orders Enforcement Act. Once the draft legislation is finalized, further community consultations will be conducted to ensure it meets the needs of the public. Draft legislation will be considered by Cabinet during the next Government's term of office.
  • A user-friendly Web site is being designed, developed and implemented in Nunavut. This Web-site will include information about all family related programs that are available in Nunavut, including on-line downloadable forms. All maintenance enforcement forms, pamphlets and other resource materials, as well as translation into Nunavut's four official languages will be reviewed prior to making them available on the Website. Considerations would include an automated voice response system linked to the Maintenance Enforcement Program system together with appropriate access for the clients to obtain account information.
  • Nunavut initiated a Client SatisfactionSurvey that will address Program satisfaction, possible improvements given the vastness of the North, and, methods of working with the communities to ensure Court ordered child support is paid. The survey will be mailed out and followed-up by a telephone survey for non responses.


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