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

MANITOBA

PAA 1: PROJECT COORDINATION

Child Support Guidelines Project

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To support provincial and federal-provincial planning for the implementation of federal legislative amendments.
Description
In 1997-1998, Manitoba established a project office to coordinate and implement child support guidelines, and created two committees to oversee implementation of the family law reforms. The Internal Implementation Committee is comprised of representatives of the provincial departments and agencies directly involved in the implementation process. An external Consultation Committee, with members from the bench, the bar associations, community organizations and provincial departments, continues to meet under the chairmanship of the Associate Chief Judge, Court of Queen's Bench (Family Division). A project manager coordinates the work of the committees and other child support initiatives, including Manitoba's participation in federal-provincial-territorial planning and coordination committees.

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
Staff from the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice participated in planning for public consultations, including the development of the FPT Family Law Committee paper consultation document. Federal officials, with consultants IER Planning, Research and Management Services, undertook in-person sessions in Flin Flon, Brandon, Winnipeg and St-Boniface from June 8 to 16, 2001, with the support of the Family Law Branch.

PAA 3: FAMILY JUSTICE ENHANCEMENTS AND INNOVATIONS

Parent Education

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
To provide information to separating or divorcing parents about how parental behaviour can affect the adjustment and well-being of children, and to promote cooperative parenting arrangements.
Description
The parent education program, For the Sake of the Children, has been available to parents and others since 1997-1998. The Family Conciliation Branch of the Department of Family Services and Housing manages the program, and staff specializing in separation and divorce issues deliver it in most locations. Originally, the program was one three-hour session, but the curriculum was modified in November 1997 and it now involves two three-hour sessions. The introductory session, designed for all participants, covers information about the experience of separation and divorce for parents and children, the particular needs of children of different ages, parenting plans, economic and legal issues, and alternatives to formal litigation. At the end of this session, participants, with the help of program staff and a self-screening questionnaire, are streamed into either a low conflict or high conflict second session. The high conflict session is designed for parents who have experienced significant difficulties in their relations and little post-separation contact is expected. In either case, these sessions focus on the effects of conflict on children, and communication between parents and between parents and their children. The program has been evaluated.[22]

The courts do not require that litigants attend parent education sessions, as is the case in some provinces and territories. The Family Conciliation Branch, however, requires that parents seeking to use their mediation services (including comprehensive mediation through the Comprehensive Co-mediation Pilot Project) first attend the parent education program. Legal Aid Manitoba strongly encourages its family law clients to do so as well. Between October 1997 and March 2000, the program delivered 234 of the first sessions to 3,656 participants and 200 second sessions to 1,948 participants. A majority (61 percent) of the second sessions were provided to people involved in high conflict relationships. Program managers noted that attendance at parent education sessions increased with the introduction of a requirement for mandatory parent education as part of the Comprehensive Co-mediation Pilot Project (see below).

The program has developed two videos as instructional aids. One covers legal issues of relevance to separated and divorcing parents and the other focusses on issues of communication between parents and between parents and their children. A series of CD-ROMs are being developed so they can be used to deliver parent education in remote communities, be available as take-home material and, through closed captioning, be accessible to hearing-impaired parents.

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

Comprehensive Co-Mediation and Mediation Internship Pilot Project

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To provide alternatives to litigation and make comprehensive mediation a part of the dispute resolution process in Manitoba.
Description
Recognizing that mediation can help reduce conflict between parents, the province began planning a comprehensive mediation program in 1997-1998. The primary objective was to offer comprehensive co-mediation services (including for financial issues) to separated and divorcing parents with children younger than 18 years of age. Its secondary objective was to recruit and train mediators to be accredited through Family Mediation Canada. The project team developed a management structure, training, recruiting and assignment procedures and processes, and an evaluation plan.

In 1998-1999, 24 interns were recruited from among lawyers and family relations specialists to work as co-mediators with lawyers to deliver mediation services to self-referred clients and those referred by the Family Conciliation Branch, courts, parent education programs, lawyers and others. Before entering mediation, parents must complete the parent education program. The project began to receive referrals in May 1999 and by the end of March 2000 had fully dealt with 142 cases, 49 of which proceeded to mediation. The project was evaluated.[23]

In 2000-2001, Manitoba Justice began integrating the comprehensive co-mediation project into its Family Conciliation Branch, which had previously only done mediation in custody and access cases. A departmental lawyer-mediator and Family Conciliation Branch mediators deliver the comprehensive co-mediation service. The internships are expected to be maintained, but on a smaller scale. As part of the integration, Family Conciliation Branch staff will receive the necessary practical experience to obtain certification in comprehensive mediation and participate in mediation training courses, such as those offered by Family Mediation Canada.

PAA 5: SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

Maintenance Enforcement System Redesign

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To redesign the maintenance enforcement system to maximize efficiency and allow for new functions.
Description
The Manitoba Maintenance Enforcement Program is redesigning its automated information management system. The project will provide for a more informative and understandable account record, avoid duplication of effort, support electronic banking, provide electronic access to files to improve client services, support automated telephone services and other functions. The redesign of the enforcement, accounting and court processes, begun in 1998-1999, was completed in 1999-2000, as was the re-engineering of the communications and reporting functions. The systems development work, which included a change in database software, continued through 2000-2001, incorporating appropriate checks as formal policies are approved.

Automated Court Orders

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To improve the efficiency and timeliness of court processes.
Description
The first phase of this project began in 1997-1998 and involved developing standard order clauses to eliminate ambiguities and permit the design of a system to capture data needed for the Maintenance Enforcement Program. This involved introducing testing of electronic filing and the production of automated orders in the courtroom. The use of the clauses is mandatory, unless a court expressly approves a non-standard clause.

The second phase introduced electronic filing and the production of automated orders in the courtroom. Work continued on the refinement of the standard order clauses and the development of Masters' Enforcement Court clauses, and the development and implementation of an enforcement information form to facilitate registration of orders with the Maintenance Enforcement Program, and revision of the Court of Queen's Bench Rules of Practice. The project became operational in March 2000 in Winnipeg's Masters' Maintenance Enforcement Court with Family Law Branch staff producing and submitting draft orders to court.

Manitoba Justice prepared for the implementation of an automated system throughout the Court of Queen's Bench, Family Division. The preparations included communications and training activities directed to court staff and law firms, external testing and further modification of court rules.

PAA 7: POLICY, RESEARCH AND EVALUATION

Evaluation and Data Collection PAA 8: PUBLIC AWARENESS AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
To evaluate child support guidelines implementation projects and programs and to collect information to be used to monitor the implementation of the guidelines.
Description
Manitoba Justice has evaluated the parent education program and is currently evaluating the co-mediation project and other initiatives. The province also continues to participate in data collection for the national Survey of Child Support Awards.

Child Support Resource Centre

Duration
1997-1998
Goal
To provide a single location where parents who are paying or receiving child support can get general and case-specific information about the child support guidelines and related legislation.
Description
The Child Support Resource Centre delivered the parent education program and public legal information materials to parents and others. In addition, its legal counsel services helped parents assess the impact of the guidelines and prepare requests for financial disclosure, applications and tax forms. Finally, a court officer at the Centre helped people prepare and submit court documents. While the parent education program was well used, the demand for the other services was significantly lower than expected. In total, the Centre responded to 1,200 phone calls, distributed about 900 information packages, and met with 124 recipients and 135 payors. As a result, the Centre ceased operation in April 1998, although the premises continued to be used for other child support activities.

Case Management Brochures

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To provide litigants with current information about the case management process in the Court of Queen's Bench, Family Division.
Description
For several years, a project in the Family Division of the Court of Queen's Bench has randomly selected 20 percent of family matters to go through a case management process. Case management refers to processes intended to facilitate earlier resolutions, determine whether an alternative resolution process would be appropriate, reduce delay, and reduce the costs of litigation. An evaluation of the project determined that parties resolved a high percentage of matters very early at case management conferences. It is anticipated that full case management for separation and divorce matters originating in Winnipeg will be implemented in 2002. Manitoba Justice published a brochure to help people referred to the process understand what case management is, what to expect and how the process works. The brochure, however, had become outdated and, with the pending change to full case management, a revised edition was prepared and published.

Family Law in Manitoba Public Information Booklet

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
To provide the public with comprehensive information on family law in a clear and concise format.
Description
In 1998-1999, Manitoba Justice published Family Law in Manitoba, a booklet for the general public containing comprehensive information on family law matters. Revisions were necessary because of amendments to federal and provincial legislation. Some 13,000 copies of the English version of the publication were distributed province-wide in the first quarter of 1999-2000. A French-language edition was produced and distributed in 2000-2001. In 2000-2001, Manitoba produced another edition of the booklet to reflect changes in the province's domestic violence legislation and changes in the names of agencies and departments. The Family Law in Manitoba booklet is distributed to all attendees at the province's parent education program and is widely available through government departments, women's shelters and other community organizations.

INCENTIVE FOR SPECIAL PROJECTS

Administrative Recalculation Model

Duration
1999-pending
Goal
To develop a model for recalculating child support payments under section 25.1 of the Divorce Act.
Description
Normally, parents seeking a change in the amount of child support payments due to changes in circumstances must apply to the courts for a variation. In 1999-2000, the Family Law Branch began planning and developing an administrative mechanism that would provide an inexpensive and timely alternative and support to an exclusively court-based process. That work led to the development of a pilot project model to be staffed by two lawyers and one administrative support position, who will use ChildView software to help parents determine the amount of child support to be paid. The Branch's preparations for implementation of the project involved obtaining software licences and training for the ChildView application, and producing public information materials. Manitoba hopes to conduct a feasibility study respecting the pilot project model.

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

Ms. Kelly Wilson
Project Manager Judicial Services Branch
Manitoba Justice
2nd Floor, 408 York Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 0P9
Telephone: (204) 945-2317
Ms. Joan MacPhail, QC Director

Ms. Janet Sigurdson
Crown Counsel
Manitoba Justice
Family Law Branch
705, 405 Broadway
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 3L6
Telephone: (204) 945-0268

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