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

NEW BRUNSWICK

PAA 1: PROJECT COORDINATION

Project Management

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To coordinate implementation of child support guidelines.
Description
The Court Services Division of the New Brunswick Department of Justice is responsible for the province's child support implementation project. From 1997 to 1999, the Department of Justice had a dedicated project manager who participated in the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Task Force, prepared funding proposals and reports, and coordinated training, public information and research activities. In 1999-2000 most of the guidelines implementation activities were folded into the expansion of the province's Domestic Legal Aid project, with the project manager assuming responsibilities for the larger project as well as projects associated with child support. The province also allocated federal resources to support its participation in national and federalprovincial-territorial planning and consultations dealing with child support and support enforcement issues.

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

National Consultations on Custody, Access and Child Support Duration

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To participate in federal-provincial-territorial consultations on custody, access and child support.
Description
The New Brunswick Department of Justice planned a series of provincial consultations on child support, custody and access, and support enforcement. Public meetings held in Moncton and Fredericton on June 20 and 22, 2001 were augmented by consultations through the mail.

PAA 3: FAMILY JUSTICE ENHANCEMENTS AND INNOVATIONS

Adoption of Provincial Guidelines Duration

Duration
1997-1998
Goal
To implement provincial guidelines that came into force May 1, 1998.
Description
In preparation for the implementation of provincial child support guidelines, the province amended its court rules, introducing new procedures for quick variations, and provided training to court staff and legal aid lawyers.

Variation Kit

Duration
1997-1998
Goal
To provide information to those who want and are able to prepare and submit variation applications on their own.
Description
Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick developed a variation package in both official language for two audiences: those agreeing to a change in the child support amount because of a change in the payor's income; and those with orders established before the guidelines came into force.

Legal Information Services

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To give information and advice on child support guidelines to help clients decide about variations to existing orders.
Description
In 1997, the province established a child support information centre in Moncton. A roster of duty counsel and a local tax specialist held clinics every Thursday evening. The province informed parents of the service by including a notice to all respondents in documents it served. The demand for services, especially of the tax specialist, was very low. As a result, the program was redesigned so that the duty counsel worked only with clients referred from Family Support Services, and the tax specialist only on cases referred by a duty counsel. In 1998-1999, the revised service was available in eight communities.

Paralegal and Child Support Clerk

Duration
1998-1999
Goal
To encourage alternative dispute resolution and provide quick and accurate child support calculation services.
Description
New Brunswick, responding to parents having to wait to get an appointment with court-based alternative dispute resolution services, redesigned the delivery of court social worker services. The province transferred the responsibility for paralegal work from social workers to dedicated paralegal staff working directly for Legal Aid New Brunswick. This allowed the social workers to focus on screening, mediation and settlement services.

Parent Education

Duration
1999-2001
Goal
To help parents deal positively with their children following separation.
Description
New Brunswick adapted Manitoba's parenting program, For the Sake of the Children, for its own purposes. Before implementing the program, the province had to revise the session scripts, print documents and video materials to accommodate differences in the family law systems in the two provinces. It also prepared French-language materials, translating text and dubbing or re-shooting videos. The program is delivered in eight judicial districts by trained contract facilitators.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To expand the availability of non-adversarial dispute resolution mechanisms as a first option in family law matters, including applications for variation of support awards.
Description
The New Brunswick Family Support Service has long provided mediation, one-to-one counselling and information services for family support clients. In 1997-1998, the province expanded this service by adding six court social workers and providing them with advanced on-site mediation training. The continuing improvements to mediation services are a priority under the project to expand the Domestic Legal Aid program. The improvements include developing screening tools to help assess whether or not mediation would be an appropriate alternative due to power imbalances, and a manual and training for court social workers. When mediation is not appropriate, the service provides a settlement option to parents.

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

Administrative Mechanism

Duration
1999-2000
Goal
To develop a procedure for the administrative variation of child support orders.
Description
New Brunswick planned, but has not implemented, a hearing mechanism to deal with child support variations. It was expected that an administrative officer would be empowered to compel parties to appear at the hearing and disclose information. At a later stage, the province will consider expanding the mandate of hearing officers to include post-order custody and access issues.

Child Support Calculation Software Duration

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
>To provide support payment software to legal aid mediators and lawyers, and Justices of the Court of Queen's Bench, Family Division.
Description
The province allocated federal resources for ChildView software licences, hardware leases and user training.

PAA 5: SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

FOAEA Enhancements

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To establish online access to the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance (FOAEA) Unit and to decentralize the FOAEA link to allow officers to issue garnishments and send other requests to the FOAEA office from individual workstations.
Description
New Brunswick established a centralized FOAEA link in 1997-1998 because its regional Family Support Order Service offices did not have Internet access. It also provided training for all enforcement officers and managers on the new federal enforcement measures and processes. The province intended to complete the work required to implement a decentralized system with the new FOAEA security measures and allow 18 enforcement officers access from eight local sites in 1998-1999. However, this effort was delayed pending the implementation at the federal level of the new security measures. As a result, the province allocated federal funds to provide a centralized resource to help handle online requests. The province decentralized the transmission of electronic garnishment, licence denial and tracing application in 1999-2000, as the necessary modifications to the national system were complete and new encryption software had been installed at regional office sites.

National Maintenance Enforcement Survey

Duration
1999-2000
Goal
To provide the required data tables for the National Maintenance Enforcement Survey being conducted by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
Description
New Brunswick refurbished its automated enforcement system in 1998-1999. As a result of the extensive changes made, the province had to build new system interfaces and reporting functions. The work needed to generate automated reports and tables for the National Maintenance Enforcement Survey was completed in 2000-2001, which allowed the province to begin submitting tables in 2000-2001.

Family Support Orders Service Enhancement Development Project

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To improve services to clients by providing greater access to information, offering payors additional methods of payment, improving payments to beneficiaries, and providing additional enforcement tools to help enforcement officers.
Description
New Brunswick, having realized that its information system had a number of significant limitations, assessed the feasibility of modifying it to meet immediate needs pending implementation of an integrated system. As part of the feasibility study, the province developed and tested a prototype database application capturing the required data elements.

In 1998-1999, the database was modified to meet Year 2000 requirements and to implement an accounting function. All enforcement officers are now using the Windows database online, viewing live, updated enforcement data, including the enforcement status of their cases, and updated financial information. The province also planned to provide officers with additional automated enforcement tools, such as case status reports and case prioritization tools, and to provide managers with management reports.

More recently, system improvements were made to provide a common database to decrease the time required to retrieve information to respond to client enquiries. These modifications were done to allow the province to implement an integrated voice response system.

Feasibility Study: Licence Suspension and Denial Duration

Duration
1998-1999
Goal
To assess the effectiveness of motor vehicle licence suspension and denial of other licences as a means of motivating parents to comply with support orders.
Description
New Brunswick conducted a feasibility study to examine the legislation and experience of provinces and territories that have implemented licence-denial schemes, and explored implementation options and costs.

Tracing Defaulters Duration

Duration
1998-1999
Goal
To negotiate an agreement so New Brunswick Family Support Order Service staff can obtain online access to the databases of other government agencies in the province to help locate defaulting payors.
Description
The New Brunswick Department of Justice negotiated access to other databases maintained by other departments in the province to facilitate debtor tracing. As part of this initiative, the province purchased computer and communications equipment to implement online access to these sources for enforcement officers.

Increased Demand

Duration
1997-1998
Goal
To meet the demand created by increased applications to vary child support orders.
Description
New Brunswick used federal funds to cover the overtime of bookkeepers and enforcement officers.

Workload Measurement Project (Phase 2)

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To help assess resource requirements and identify opportunities for improved effectiveness and efficiency in the Family Support Orders Service.
Description
In 1999-2000, during the first phase of the project, Family Support Orders Service established the Workload Team to identify core tasks, service standards and time requirements for responding to client inquiries, payment processing and data entry. In the second phase, the team completed the analysis for key enforcement functions (e.g. tracing and initiating enforcement hearings). In addition to supporting planning, the exercise will assist in identifying opportunities for automating tasks and streamlining procedures.

Integrated Voice Response System

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To provide support enforcement clients with ready access to information.
Description
Following the completion of a costs and feasibility study in 1999-2000, New Brunswick's Family Support Orders Service implemented an integrated voice response system. The system will provide general information to the public and, more importantly, will allow payors and recipients to obtain current information on the status of accounts and payments.

PAA 6: RECIPROCAL ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance

Duration
1998-2000
Goal
To develop standard documents and forms to ensure the uniform administration of reciprocal enforcement orders.
Description
New Brunswick participated in the national committee on reciprocal enforcement and implemented the standardized forms that were developed by that group.

PAA 7: POLICY, RESEARCH AND EVALUATION

Data Collection and Research Design

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
To monitor and evaluate programs.
Description
New Brunswick allocates federal funds for staff to collect divorce order data for the national Survey of Child Support Awards and for the design of performance measures and evaluation research being built into each project.

Court Volunteers

Duration
1999-2000
Goal
To research the practice of recruiting volunteers to provide information and assistance to unrepresented clients in family courts.
Description
Noting that unrepresented clients often have little understanding of the court process or practical information about where to go and who to see, the province did research to assess whether volunteers could fill this information gap. The research was to consider experience in other volunteer programs and other jurisdictions; however it was not completed.

PAA 8: PUBLIC AWARENESS AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

Public Information Services

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To provide information about the child support reforms.
Description
The Department of Justice established a partnership with the Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick (PLEIS NB) to develop and deliver information about child support guidelines and related matters to the public and affected parents. Since 1997, the partnership have prepared and distributed brochures, fact sheets and other printed materials, and maintained a toll-free phone line. They have also developed a video that provides basic information about the province's family law system. In addition to these activities, the province continues to develop public information materials for each of the child support-related projects covered in the Domestic Legal Aid program expansion.

Information Sessions

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To provide information on how child support guidelines apply in New Brunswick.
Description
PLEIS NB, with the support of the provincial Department of Justice, planned and organized public information sessions in both official languages in 14 communities. Local groups hosted sessions, which were delivered by local family law practitioners. The following year, the sessions were delivered only on request.

Training

Duration
1997-1998
Goal
To train staff in new procedures, policies and application of guidelines.
Description
New Brunswick delivered one- and two-day training sessions to Domestic Legal Aid staff, mediators, contract lawyers and Family and Community Services staff, as well as orientation sessions to Family Support Order Service and Court Services staff. The participants received training and instruction on the legislative amendments, the new guidelines and their application.

Atlantic Symposium

Duration
1998-1999
Goal
To encourage family law professionals to take part in a professional development workshop and lectures.
Description
The Atlantic provinces held a symposium on child support guidelines for lawyers, judges, mediators and accountants in September 1999. New Brunswick allocated federal funds to allow court staff and legal aid lawyers to attend the event.

For more information about New Brunswick services and programs, contact:

Ms. Joanne Higgins
Project Manager
New Brunswick Department of Justice
163 Saint John Street
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5H1
Telephone: (506) 453-4319 or (506) 444-3218

Ms. Anne McKay
Director
Program Support Services
New Brunswick Department of Justice
PO Box 6000 Fredericton, New Brunswick
E3B 5H1 Telephone: (506) 453-8498

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