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

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

PAA 1: PROJECT COORDINATION

Project Coordination

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To plan for and implement child support guidelines.
Description
Newfoundland and Labrador employed a project coordinator who reports to the assistant deputy minister of Justice and is supported by a clerk, who also collects data for the national Survey of Child Support Awards. The coordinator's responsibilities include participating in the FederalProvincial-Territorial Task Force, project planning, financial management, monitoring and reporting, coordinating training, public information activities and research, and otherwise ensuring the continuity of the implementation. This work is carried out in consultation with the courts and government agencies affected by the implementation of the guidelines. In 2000-2001, the coordinator's position was reduced to half time. The incumbent also serves as the administrator for the Unified Family Court.

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
The Department of Justice for Newfoundland and Labrador consulted with the judiciary, court staff and the family law bar, as well as the public at consultation sessions held in Goose Bay, Corner Brook, St. John's and Gander from May 31 to June 7, 2001.

PAA 3: FAMILY JUSTICE ENHANCEMENTS AND INNOVATIONS

Training

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To ensure that judges, lawyers and departmental staff receive the training required to perform their duties.
Description
The province has provided training for judges, affected court and agency personnel, and family law practitioners as legislative, program, procedural and administrative changes require. The earliest efforts (1997-1998) focussed on the Divorce Act reforms and tax changes. More recent efforts have dealt with rules changes, the implementation of provincial legislation and new information systems.

Rules and Forms

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To ensure that court procedures and documents are consistent with and support proper administration of child support reforms.
Description
A subcommittee of the Rules Committee of the Supreme Court and another for the provincial courts were established in 1997-1998 to revise court rules and forms to accommodate federal and provincial legislative changes. The changes were fully implemented in 1999-2000.

Communications Link-up of Field Staff

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To provide field staff with information management and communication tools.
Description
The Department of Justice for Newfoundland and Labrador provided computer and communications equipment to field offices to, among other things, establish a communications link-up for field staff.

Supreme Court Case Management System

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To improve administrative efficiency and effectiveness.
Description
The province designed a new case management computer system to replace the outdated systems in use at Supreme Court sites. When implemented, the system will replace most manual reporting procedures improving efficiency and reducing errors.

Provincial Guidelines

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To implement provincial child support guidelines.
Description
Newfoundland and Labrador's amended Family Law Act came into force on April 1, 1998. The amendments adopted the Federal Child Support Guidelines and regulations, which the province modified to accommodate non-married parents. The implementation process was completed with the adoption of revised forms.

Parent Education

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
To provide information to separating or divorcing parents.
Description
In 1998-1999, Newfoundland ran a pilot parent education program comprising three two-and-ahalf hour sessions for each parent. The sessions covered child support and legal issues, and included a skills-building component to help parents deal with each other after separation. Based on the pilot project, the province increased the length of the program from 7.5 to 12 hours to accommodate a larger skills-development component, and delivered the service throughout the province. This program was evaluated by the Department of Justice Canada.[24]

Support Application Workers

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To meet increased demands placed on the support application workers.
Description
Since 1993, social workers employed by the Department of Human Resources and Employment (formerly the Department of Social Services) have helped social assistance recipients apply for and obtain support orders. Previously, these workers were located only in provincial courts. The program focusses on conciliation, early settlement through voluntary agreements, and the participation of non-judicial personnel in discussions to set up support agreements. The service was modified and expanded in 1997-1998 using federal funds. Among other things, the support application workers provide information on the operation of the child support guidelines, accept both original and variation applications, help parents collect and collate financial disclosure documentation, prepare files to ensure compliance, calculate child support awards and prepare agreement documents. In addition, the worker meets with the parents, individually or jointly, to try to mediate or negotiate an agreement. When such an agreement is reached, the worker drafts a consent order for confirmation by the courts. The program was evaluated by the Institute for Human Resource Development in cooperation with the Department of Justice Canada.[25]

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

Child Support Variation Pilot Project

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To assess the impact of alternative dispute resolution services in determining or varying child support amounts.
Description
Newfoundland and Labrador has established a pilot project giving support application workers the authority to recalculate child support amounts and issue affidavits. This project was facilitated by a planned revision of court rules and forms that would simplify Supreme Court (Unified Family Court) and provincial Family Court proceedings. A standing subcommittee of the Rules Committee chaired by the project coordinator/Unified Family Court administrator is overseeing the revision. PAA 5: SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

System Development

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
To replace an existing mainframe-based system.
Description
In 1998-1999, the Information Technology Division of the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Justice completed the first phase of the Support Enforcement Project aimed at replacing the Newfoundland and Labrador Support Enforcement Program's mainframe system with a distributed-server system. The new information technology solution, which was scheduled for full installation in 2001-2002, will support the program's enforcement and accounting requirements, provide a Web-based Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance (FOAEA) interface, and produce the data tables required for the National Maintenance Enforcement Survey managed by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

PAA 6: RECIPROCAL ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

Reciprocal Enforcement Officers

Duration
1997-1998
Goal
To expand the province's capacity to deal with reciprocal enforcement of support orders.
Description
Newfoundland's Maintenance Enforcement Program added a second reciprocal enforcement officer. These officers are responsible for all files involving reciprocal arrangements, whether initiated by Newfoundland and Labrador or another province or territory. The officers provide or collect up-to-date information for effective enforcement, and implemented the new federal enforcement measures, using Internet access to the FOAEA system.

PAA 7: POLICY, RESEARCH AND EVALUATION

Research

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
To monitor the implementation of child support guidelines in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Description
The province has evaluated, and continues to monitor, the parent education program and support application worker services. St. John's is one of the sites participating in the national Survey of Child Support Awards.

PAA 8: PUBLIC AWARENESS AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

Public Awareness

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To provide information about the child support reforms.
Description
The province worked with the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland to design and deliver public legal information sessions, and with the Women's Centre to revise and publish a do-it-yourself divorce kit. The province developed instruction sheets to help parents completing applications for orders and variations of support.

INCENTIVE FOR SPECIAL PROJECTS

Family Justice Services Western Pilot Project

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To deliver integrated family law services through a community organization and assess the potential for implementing the service throughout the province.
Description
Newfoundland undertook the Family Justice Services Western Pilot Project to provide mediation and support services in custody and access cases being dealt with by the Supreme Court or the provincial Family Court. Blomidon Place, a Corner Book community health organization whose goal is to "work together with professional agencies, community-based groups and consumers to promote quality community mental health services through structures that address individual family and community issues," delivers the project. Initially the program is providing referral services and mediation. Referrals are offered by support application workers who are both the first point of contact for families, and can negotiate some consent orders. If referred for formal mediation, a family would meet with a mediator who has the authority to file a consent order when agreement is reached over support and child custody and access issues. The project also employs a social worker/psychologist to provide home assessments when the mediator and/or the Court require these services, to offer assistance and counselling around access issues such as arranging supervised access at Blomidon Place, and to coordinate parent education programs.

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

J. Berkley Reynolds
Court Administrator
Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador
Unified Family Court
21 King's Bridge Road
St. John's, Newfoundland A1C 3K4
Telephone: (709) 729-1831

Mr. Craig Scott
Manager
Support Enforcement Program
Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Justice
PO Box 2006
Corner Brook, Newfoundland A2H 6J8
Telephone: (709) 637-2658

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