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

BRITISH COLUMBIA

PAA 1: PROJECT COORDINATION

Implementation Project Administration and Coordination

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To ensure effective and timely implementation of child support guidelines, related family justice initiatives and new enforcement measures.
Description
A steering committee, chaired by a project director in the Ministry of Attorney General, has planned and coordinated implementation activities since 1997-1998. The work involved six branches of the Ministry and other departments and agencies. The Legal Services Society of British Columbia was also involved. The project coordinator is responsible for coordinating these activities, and for reporting, financial management and federal-provincial-territorial consultations. B.C. representatives have served as co-chairs of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Task Force, the Integrated Services/Dispute Resolution Working Group, the Computer Technology Committee, and maintenance enforcement committees and groups, and have been members of the Research Committee.[17]

PAA 2: FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL-TERRITORIAL CONSULTATIONS ON FAMILY LAW

National Consultations on Custody, Access and Child Support

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To participate in federal-provincial-territorial consultations on custody, access and child support.
Description
A steering committee developed plans for paper and in-person consultations in British Columbia. The committee identified a structure and locations for in-person consultations, as well as facilitators and lists of potential participants. The committee's members also contributed to the development of the documents and plans for national consultations. Six sessions were held in Vancouver, New Westminster, Abbotsford, Prince George, Kelowna and Victoria between June 4 and 13, 2001.

PAA 3: FAMILY JUSTICE ENHANCEMENTS AND INNOVATIONS

Parenting After Separation

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To provide parents seeking support orders with information about the impact of separation and divorce on children, dispute resolution alternatives and child support guidelines.
Description
Free, voluntary Parenting After Separation sessions have been offered throughout the province since 1994. The sessions cover the effects of separation, child support guidelines, strategies for adjusting to the change, effective ways to communicate, problem solving, and ways to resolve family disputes through conciliation, mediation, counselling and the court process. Since November 1998, the province has offered the sessions in Punjabi, Hindi, Cantonese and Mandarin, as well as English, in the Greater Vancouver area. The voluntary sessions were available in 22 communities around the province until September 2000, when the programs in Victoria, Abbotsford and Prince George became sites for mandatory sessions. In 2000-2001, 795 people voluntarily attended one of the 103 sessions provided.

The province has found that it is difficult to deliver the Parenting After Separation program in smaller communities because there are not enough participants to hold sessions. In the hope of encouraging greater participation, the province tried adding incentives in its contract with local service providers; however, the strategy did not work.

Mandatory participation in the Parenting After Separation program was introduced in 1998-1999, with a pilot project in the Burnaby and New Westminster provincial courts. The program requires parents to attend one mandatory Parenting After Separation session before their first court appearance is scheduled. The preliminary results of a project evaluation found, among other things, a high level of satisfaction with the program.[18] Based on the evaluation findings, British Columbia has continued to add court sites to the mandatory program, bringing the total in 2000-2001 to eight, with plans for more. In 2000-2001, a total of 3,094 people attended one of 254 mandatory sessions delivered by court staff.

The final evaluation of the mandatory program, which attempted to ascertain whether mandatory parenting sessions had an impact on the number of cases that were ultimately resolved through litigation, reported the following: "Results of the file review indicate that the mandatory Parenting After Separation program may have resulted in a reduction in the number of cases going to trial in the pilot jurisdictions. For those cases that did go to court, it appears that fewer were likely to go to a second, third or subsequent appearance in the pilot locations."[19]

Provincial Child Support Guidelines

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To determine whether to amend provincial legislation, regulations and court rules to implement child support guidelines and to make the legislative, program and administrative changes resulting from any such amendments.
Description
Beginning in 1997-1998, the province reviewed its policies before deciding to adopt the Federal Child Support Guidelines in provincial legislation. This work ranged from analyzing the financial impact of such an approach on families to drafting legislation. Following passage of the legislation in 1998, the Ministry of Attorney General developed the regulations that had to be in place prior to proclamation, and new court rules and forms to support the changes in calculations and the regulations.

Child Support Clerks

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To provide intake, calculation services and early settlement opportunities to parents making variation applications.
Description
Beginning in 1997-1998, child support clerks provided information on settlement options, ensured financial disclosure, performed calculations and, when parents agreed, prepared appropriate documents for confirmation by the court. The service was designed to facilitate implementation of the child support guidelines and deal with initial workload increases associated with applications to vary child support orders. In the first year, services were provided in 27 locations and, as a pilot project, clerks were also assigned to two Supreme Court locations to check applications before the courts considered them. The clerks' responsibilities are detailed in the Child Support Clerk Policy and Procedures Manual. A one-page summary of the clerks' service is enclosed with all summonses sent to respondents and to variation applicants. In 1998-1999, the clerks' responsibilities were expanded to include helping parents use Supreme Court self-help kits. During that year, the clerks provided information to 18,273 parties, and more comprehensive services to an average of 191 people each month. In 1999-2000, the province phased out the child support clerk project, eliminating all the positions save those associated with the Family Justice Registry (Rule 5) Project (see below) at three sites. The project evaluation recommended that the clerk function be expanded, but integrated with other family justice services.[20]

PAA 4: ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION MECHANISMS TO DETERMINE, VARY OR RECALCULATE CHILD SUPPORT

Family Justice Registry (Rule 5) Project

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
To test innovations such as triage sessions under new Provincial (Family) Court Rules.
Description
The Rule 5 process requires all parties to attend a session with a triage family justice counsellor prior to a first court appearance, unless the court agrees that there are "urgent and exceptional circumstances" that require the court to hear the matter at the earliest opportunity. During the triage session, the counsellor assesses the circumstances of the case, discusses different dispute resolution methods, and makes appropriate referrals for mediation services, Parenting After Separation sessions, or both. Cases may also be referred to child support clerks associated with each of the Family Justice Registry sites. The project was initially implemented at two sites serving large urban populations (Surrey and Robson Square in downtown Vancouver) and one serving a small, rural population (West Kootenays). In 2000-2001, the province added Kelowna as a fourth project site to test the service delivery model in a mid-sized community and prepare for a comprehensive child support service pilot project. The Ministry of Attorney General is evaluating the Rule 5 Project. The first part of that work was reported on in March 2000.[21] Data collection for the evaluation started in early 2001, and analysis and results are expected by September 2002.

PAA 5: SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

Interface with the FOAEA Program

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To implement a link to the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance (FOAEA) office to improve tracing and enhance the case management system's performance.
Description
The Family Justice Programs Division adapted its system in 1997-1998 to automate file and data exchange between the province's Family Maintenance Enforcement Program and FOAEA using a file transfer protocol process. Final testing and implementation occurred in the fall of 1998. Implementation required changing service delivery procedures and acquiring equipment and software. The following year, activities included the final testing and implementation of the file transfer protocol, which was made operational in February 1999.

Family Search (Tracing)

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To allow the Family Justice Programs Division to handle the increased volume of search requests, interface with other agencies and generally improve security and performance.
Description
The Division has progressively upgraded and enhanced system capacity and functions to implement provincial enforcement legislation (i.e. driver's licence non-renewal or denial, and credit bureau reporting), develop protocols to obtain the information needed to seize funds owing to payors in default, and automate tracing procedures. In 2000, the Division conducted a comprehensive process review of Family Search Services.

Client Satisfaction Survey

Duration
1998-1999
Goal
To rate satisfaction with Family Maintenance Enforcement Program services.
Description
The province conducted the third in a series of recipient and payor surveys designed to collect data from the same people over a period of time. The sample of payors ranged from exemplary payors to those who had never complied. The data generated information about overall satisfaction, suggested improvements and ways to decrease payor resistance, and improved client knowledge of federal and provincial enforcement initiatives.

Services and Costs Inventory

Duration
1998-2000
Goal
To identify, describe and determine the cost of services provided by the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program.
Description
British Columbia conducted a study to itemize support maintenance services and isolate their costs. The information is contributing to management and service delivery planning.

Client Relations

Duration
1998-2000
Goal
To identify systematic client relations problems.
Description
This project focussed on improving processes and systems, developing key indicator reports, and reviewing the complaint-handling process. The 1998-1999 studies, which covered the program areas within the Family Justice Programs Division, identified areas to eliminate or improve.

Redevelopment of Computer Application

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
To upgrade the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program computer system to meet current demands.
Description
The Program is redeveloping its data system. The work includes upgrading applications, cleaning up database specifications and producing data files for the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics' National Maintenance Enforcement Survey.

Electronic Banking

Duration
1997-1999 and 2000-2001
Goal
To introduce electronic receipt and disbursement for the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program trust account.
Description
From 1997 to 1999, the province completed an internal review to ensure that the Program's financial system complied with generally accepted accounting principles, and hired a consulting firm to review the feasibility of automating transactions with the province's Treasury Branch to allow for the use of automatic bank withdrawal from payors' accounts, coded invoices for payors through selected institutions, direct deposit to recipients' accounts, electronic fund transfers from attachees, and direct payment of maintenance through protected services. The review and development continued in 2000-2001. Activities included implementing the direct deposit arrangements for payments to recipients and online and telephone banking systems to benefit payors.

New Enforcement Measures

Duration
1998-2000
Goal
To develop policies, procedures and automated systems to enable the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program to use new enforcement provisions mandated by provincial legislation.
Description
The program implemented six new enforcement provisions beginning in 1998-1999: credit bureau reporting, driver's licence withholding, payment conferencing (i.e. payor-program meetings to obtain voluntary compliance), personal property registry liens, data matches with possible income sources, and enforcement against corporations. These measures will help the program pursue delinquent payors who cannot be located, "hide behind a corporate veil" or do not have regular incomes.

Integrated Voice Response Telephone System

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To provide clients, garnishees, legal counsel and other government personnel with automated access to case-specific information.
Description
The province acquired the telephone lines needed to implement integrated voice response services in 1997-1998. A call management system virtually eliminated delays and other problems in the three offices where it was implemented, allowing the program to handle more than 300,000 calls a year. In the following years, the province continued to upgrade the system to make better use of plain language, improve the consistency and tone of the content, add more business transactions, including a section on assignment, simplify menus, collect more comprehensive usage statistics, and enhance payment reporting.

Policy and Procedures Development and Training

Duration
1997-1998
Goal
To ensure that staff are able to apply the Federal Child Support Guidelines in day-to-day case management.
Description
The province developed and published policy and procedures changes and delivered associated training for a second notice of attachment and the use of licence and passport withholding power. The province also wrote guidelines for negotiating voluntary payments and decisions on applications to vary existing agreements or orders.

Family Law Centre Liaison Pilot Project

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To provide outreach services to clients
Description
The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program has assigned enforcement officers to liaise with Family Law Centres located in the Lower Mainland and provide services to Centre clients. These officers will participate in case conferences, meet with clients and conduct payment conferences. This is a pilot project and will be evaluated.

PAA 6: RECIPROCAL ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

Reciprocal Enforcement

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To ensure that the Family Justice Programs Division transmits incoming and outgoing maintenance orders, and efficiently registers, confirms, varies and enforces family support payments.
Description
The province undertook information systems development, studies and service delivery changes to improve its services in reciprocal enforcement cases. The system development activities included setting up query access to the Family Search Services case management system, and developing new screens for the reciprocal case transmittal forms, and upgrading equipment. The service delivery activities included policy and procedures development, training, orientation for lawyers, and a study of the feasibility of using integrated voice response for reciprocal jurisdiction clients. In addition to the work on its own system, B.C. led the development of standard forms for use in reciprocal arrangements. The directors of the Canadian maintenance enforcement programs, the Family Law Committee and U.S. federal government officials approved the forms in September 1999 in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

PAA 7: POLICY, RESEARCH AND EVALUATION

Policy, Procedures and Systems Development

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To adapt the province's policies, procedures and administrative systems to reflect federal and provincial legislative changes.
Description
The province carried out a variety of tasks and activities in 1997-1998 to prepare for implementation of the Federal Child Support Guidelines and revised provincial legislation, including developing court rules, tracking court decisions, supplying ChildView support calculation software to staff, and giving specialized legal advice to staff to ensure that the services and information they provide are accurate. The new rules for family cases in provincial court developed by the Ministry of Attorney General include rules for special procedures (e.g. the Family Justice Registry (Rule 5) Project) at five pilot court sites. In 1998-1999, activities included developing financial disclosure forms, forming a ChildView Users Group to coordinate updates and training, to respond to system "bugs", and to lease computers for child support clerks. In 1999-2000, federal resources supported upgrades of the ChildView software licences and the provision of legal advice to staff.

Evaluation

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To contribute to the evaluation of the child support guidelines, and to evaluate special projects and initiatives.
Description
In 1997-1998, the province developed an evaluation framework and strategies for its child support guidelines activities. The following year, evaluation activities included carrying out surveys of service providers, preparing baseline data by matching provincial enforcement records with federal income tax data (from the T1 and the General Return), placing guidelines-related questions in a client survey on enforcement, and designing an evaluation framework for the child support clerk function. The province continued to monitor the volume of variation applications at Supreme Court sites, and participated in federal research projects.

Throughout 1999-2000, the province continued the evaluation of the child support clerk function and the Rule 5 Pilot Project. Other evaluation projects included continuing the data match project with Canada Customs and Revenue, and collecting data at the Victoria Supreme Court for the national Survey of Child Support Awards.

In 2000-2001, B.C. completed the evaluation of the mandatory Parenting After Separation program and a research report identifying factors other than income that affect the amount of support agreed to or ordered before the guidelines were introduced. The province is revising the evaluation framework. As part of the review process, a summary of the research done by B.C. under the Child Support Initiative was commissioned. An evaluation of the Family Justice Registry (Rule 5) Project began in 1999 and will be completed by September 2002.

PAA 8: PUBLIC AWARENESS AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

Child Support Guidelines: Public Awareness and Legal Information

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To inform parents of the child support guidelines, changes in provincial legislation, and the services available to them.
Description
The province's 1997-1998 public awareness campaign, which focussed on the immediate implementation of the guidelines, included fact sheets, newspaper ads and a toll-free information line, as well as updated public and legal education materials. The province also began work on self-help kits for unrepresented parents seeking to vary Supreme Court orders. Since 1997-1998, the province has revised and redistributed materials as needed and published materials pertaining to new or special projects, such as mandatory referral to parent education courses. It has also maintained the toll-free information line, adding a feature that allows callers to obtain information from recorded messages as well as operators. As with print materials, the information messages are updated periodically. In 2000-2001, for example, the Ministry of Attorney General planned to revise the content of the recorded messages so that people would have access to more general information about a wider range of subjects, including information on custody and access issues. The province used federal funds to help develop a comprehensive Family Justice Services Web site.

Communications with Enforcement Clients

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To ensure recipients, payors and stakeholders are informed about Family Maintenance Enforcement Program services, and the related legislation and how it affects them.
Description
The Program is committed to ensuring that clients have access to current and reliable information, and is conducting periodic reviews of its communications activities. In addition to updating brochures and other print materials, the Program produced a style guide, developed principles and business rules for communications and provided staff training.

In addition to print materials and the integrated voice response telephone system (see above), the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program developed a Web site, which it launched in 1998-1999.

Training

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To provide training to family justice counsellors, Family Maintenance Enforcement and Family Search Services staff.
Description
In 1997-1998, the province conducted two-day workshops in six locations. The workshops covered the Federal Child Support Guidelines, their application and the resulting operational changes. Further, Family Maintenance Enforcement Program staff and child support clerks received specialized training on their duties. In the following year, additional training was directed to staff working with the provincial guidelines. In addition, family court counsellors and the staff of the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program and Family Justice Services Division received one day of training on the ChildView software program.

INCENTIVE FOR SPECIAL PROJECTS

Comprehensive Child Support Service Duration

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To plan a pilot project for a comprehensive child support service.
Description
The Ministry of Attorney General developed plans for a comprehensive child support service pilot project to help parents, in part, with the recalculation of child support amounts. The service will be offered in addition to the triage services offered through the Rule 5 Project in Kelowna to parents seeking an original child support order or wishing to vary an order according to the guidelines, or due to a change in circumstances. When agreements are not achieved through that process, parents will present their case in court for a judicial decision. An important element of this extra service will be a formal link with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program. The planning of the pilot project required work on service requirements, changes to regulations and court rules, development of policies and procedures, position descriptions, a training plan and materials, and related tasks.

For more information about British Columbia's services and programs, contact:

Ms. Wendy Hacking
Director
Family Justice Services Division
Justice Programs Branch
Ministry of Attorney General
7th Floor, 1001 Douglas Street
PO Box 9278, Station Provincial Government
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9J7
Telephone: (250) 387-1560

Mr. Chris Beresford, Director
British Columbia Family Maintenance Enforcement Program
Ministry of Attorney General
Suite 210, 815 Hornby Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6Z 2E6
Telephone: (604) 660-2528

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