Federal Funding of Provincial and Territorial Child Support, Support Enforcement and Child Custody and Access Projects

Family Justice Initiatives Projects (continued)

Reciprocal Enforcement

For the most part, maintenance enforcement programs have been designed to facilitate support payments when the recipient and the payor reside in the same province.  When a parent relocates, as happens with growing frequency, the maintenance enforcement program for the original jurisdiction may turn to another program for assistance in collecting support payments or making disbursements.  The provincial and territorial governments have passed legislation and developed bilateral arrangements for the reciprocal enforcement of support orders in these cases.  Several jurisdictions allocated federal resources to support these efforts.

Policy Development, Research and Evaluation

Government agencies are expected to continually monitor the programs and services they deliver to ensure that they are meeting their objectives and offering the best possible solutions.  The federal government has allocated funds to support the cycle of research, program development and implementation and evaluation that supports pragmatic program improvements in the area of family law services.

Evaluation and Research

Many provinces and territories have invested federal funding to monitor and evaluate family law reforms and special projects, gather data and carry out similar work to support ongoing policy and program improvements:

National Survey of Child Support Awards

Given the change in approach to determining child support amounts introduced by the child support guidelines, federal and provincial officials agreed that information about support orders and variation orders made on or after May 1, 1997, was a priority for any national research strategy.  As there is no national statistical mechanism that generates this kind of data, the national Survey of Child Support Awards was undertaken to get some early indications about the implementation of the guidelines, and to provide for ongoing or periodic collection of information from the courts.  Court staff at about 16 court locations in 11 provinces and territories collect the data.  Federal funding helped cover the staff costs to gather and report on the original data.

Public Awareness and Professional Training

Child Support Guidelines

In implementing child support guidelines, the federal, provincial and territorial governments worked to ensure that those affected by the changes would have every opportunity to obtain enough information to assess the implications of the changes on them.  The following identifies the variety of communications and public information strategies that were undertaken with federal financial assistance.

Maintenance Enforcement

Several provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs have allocated federal funding to support communications and public information activities designed to increase general knowledge about their activities and improve levels of client satisfaction.  In addition to producing print material and maintaining Web sites and interactive telephone services, the programs have employed some more proactive strategies.

Training

All of the provinces and territories have designed and delivered training on child support guidelines and related matters for court and departmental staff, judges, family lawyers and others involved in the delivery of family law services.  British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Yukon each developed training projects or strategies that were supported by federal resources.  British Columbia, for example, held a series of two-day, team-led workshops covering the guidelines, their application and the resulting operational changes.  Nova Scotia, on the other hand, adopted a combination of direct and train-the-trainer approaches for court, maintenance enforcement, social services and public legal information staff.  Training opportunities for family lawyers were often organized by continuing legal education groups and bar associations with substantive and funding assistance from the federal and provincial governments.  In addition to general training and orientation, a variety of specialized training events were organized.  The Atlantic provinces, for example, jointly sponsored a symposium on the guidelines for lawyers, judges, mediators and accountants in September 1999.

Earlier training (1997-1999) focussed on the Divorce Act reforms and tax changes, but more recent efforts have tended to concentrate on training for court and departmental staff in relation to court rules changes, provincial legislative reforms and information system enhancements.  There are, however, ongoing efforts to support other professionals.  For example, the Yukon Department of Justice issues periodic information bulletins for family law professionals and service providers about new procedures and developments, as well as delivering training to its Court Services staff.

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