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

NOVA SCOTIA

PAA 1: PROJECT COORDINATION

Coordination

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To support planning and implementation of child support guidelines initiatives.
Description
Since 1997-1998, the province has retained a project coordinator to prepare funding proposals and reports, coordinate training, education and public information, help develop provincial child support guidelines, oversee court-based intake assistants and ensure effective operation of the implementation strategy. Federal resources are also allocated to support provincial participation in provincial, regional and federal-provincial-territorial planning and consultative committees dealing with family law issues, in particular the implementation of the child support guidelines and maintenance enforcement.

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

National Consultations on Custody, Access and Child Support

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To give the public an opportunity to voice their opinions on and have discussions about the proposed amendments to the Divorce Act.
Description
In support of the national consultations, Nova Scotia held meetings with professionals, advocates and members of the public interested in family law in Halifax and Sydney on June 27 and 28, 2001.

PAA 3: FAMILY JUSTICE ENHANCEMENTS AND INNOVATIONS

Parent Education Program

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To inform parents about the effects of separation and divorce on children and to sensitize them to the needs of children.
Description
Volunteer facilitators with legal or mental health backgrounds, or both, delivered the parent education program in two sites throughout 1997-1998. The province has increased the number of sites where this program is available to five, adding three in 2000-2001. The sessions included information on guidelines, non-adversarial methods of resolving family law matters, and the effects of separation and divorce on children. They also include skills-building activities aimed at helping parents avoid conflict, especially conflict that implicates children. The province is now delivering the parent education sessions using the Children in the Middle video series, which will increase the number of communities where the program will be available.

Court Rules and Forms

Duration
1998-1999
Goal
To ensure court rules comply with guidelines requirements and to identify innovative approaches to resolving guidelines issues.
Description
The project coordinator worked with provincial Family Court and Supreme Court committees to review and update rules and develop standard forms in 1998-1999. The Supreme Court review was part of a wider examination of the court process in family proceedings, and included developing provisions for using conciliation and mediation services before a hearing.

Training Duration Goal

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To ensure that lawyers, court employees and other staff involved in the implementation and administration of guidelines are fully informed about the provisions, how to apply them, and the impact the reforms will have on their work.
Description
A combination of direct and train-the-trainer approaches was used in 1997-1998 to train court, maintenance enforcement, Community Services, and Public Legal Education and Information staff. The province offered special training sessions for Family Maintenance Income Support Program staff, family lawyers, mediators and judges through professional associations and the Department of Justice Canada. The training was delivered in two phases: training for court, maintenance enforcement and maintenance income support staff was completed by June 30, 1997. Other training was held that fall. The province also supported a conference on guidelines for the legal community in cooperation with the Continuing Legal Education Association and the Canadian Bar Association's Family Law Section in Nova Scotia. In addition, Nova Scotia and the other Atlantic provinces organized a multidisciplinary symposium on child support guidelines that was held in September 1999. The Maintenance Enforcement Program organized a two-day seminar to familiarize enforcement staff with child support developments and their implications for enforcement-related work.

The province's continuing training activities have included training about the operational impact of provincial and federal guidelines and the use of support calculation software.

Mediation and Mentoring Project

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To increase the number of certified family mediators through training and mentoring programs, and to expand the use of alternative dispute resolution services by separating and divorcing parents.
Description
The province hired an alternative dispute resolution coordinator in 1997-1998 to plan and design a mediation program, and to coordinate the design and delivery of mediation training and a mentoring program. The mentoring program, in which the province provides training and supervision by a certified mediator, who then volunteers his or her service in 30 cases, helps trainees gain the experience they need to become certified and be placed on a government roster of professional mediators. A certified mediator was hired to deliver the mentoring program in the Halifax and Dartmouth courts. The plans to extend the coordinator were postponed, although funds were approved.

The province continued to support the program in the Halifax-Dartmouth region and introduced the service in Cape Breton during 1998-1999. It also proposed to enrol four to six court staff in a mediation program offered by the Maritime School of Social Work. In 1999-2000, federal financial support was used to hire a consultant to work with an advisory committee and complete a report on the delivery of alternative dispute resolution services.

Court Intake Assistants

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To deliver effective service in compliance with court rules and guidelines filing requirements by providing assistance to parents and reducing delays in court proceedings.
Description
Intake assistants, located in each judicial district, help process applications to vary orders and agreements, handle the new requirements to track documents and assess the completeness of information vis-à-vis filing requirements and court rules. They also help litigants, particularly unrepresented litigants, and court staff complete forms and filing packages, track and follow-up on filing documents, request information from third parties, provide information on basic procedures, advise people where to go for legal and financial advice, and ensure that draft court orders conform with section 13 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The intake assistants also use the ChildView software program to help parties and the courts calculate support amounts. Finally, the intake assistants capture data for the national Survey of Child Support Awards. In 1999-2000, the number of staff assigned to these responsibilities was reduced due to funding limitations. The program was the subject of an evaluation undertaken by the province and the Department of Justice Canada.[26]

The province has developed procedures whereby intake assistants can assess cases to identify those that could be referred to mediation and conciliation services designed to help parents arrive at agreements on recalculation. The agreements are formalized as consent orders under Supreme Court Rule 70. These procedures were to be implemented first in the Supreme Court (Family Division) and subsequently in three provincial Family Court judicial areas.

Child Support Guidelines Software

Duration
1998-2001
Goal
To install and maintain the ChildView software program.
Description
Nova Scotia installed ChildView software in 1998-1999. While it is widely available, the primary users are the judges of Family Courts and of the Family Division of the Supreme Court.

Automated Information System

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To implement a system to meet the operational needs of courts.
Description
Nova Scotia began planning to enhance its court information system in 1997-1998. The system supports the following: document tracking, standard court forms and reports (e.g. support orders, notices and orders to file financial information) and data collection for research and management reports.

Self-help Areas

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To help clients prepare child support forms.
Description
The province is developing a self-help program that will include having workstations available for the public to complete court forms.

Supervised Access

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To develop options for supervised access services.
Description
Nova Scotia assigned Department of Justice officers to prepare a best practices manual and to work with community organizations offering child-centred services to develop options for delivering supervised access services. The supervised access program is being delivered in two areas served by the Supreme Court, Family Division.

Court Assistance Program PAA 5: SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

Duration
1999-2001
Goal
To provide unrepresented clients with information about court procedures and ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities.
Description
Noting an increase in the number of unrepresented clients involved in family matters and the court time used to explain basic rules of procedure and evidence, the Supreme Court (Family Division) developed a court assistance program. The program will provide scheduled sessions designed to inform unrepresented clients about court procedures and show them how to prepare for court. It will also encourage clients to seek legal advice. The province produced an English-language video presentation that will serve as a core instructional aid for the sessions.

FOAEA Enhancements

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To create an electronic file transfer protocol to exchange case-related details with the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance (FOAEA) system.
Description
Nova Scotia's Maintenance Enforcement Program began implementing a file transfer protocol in 1997-1998, and completed most of the design and installation work in 1999-2000. The program also uses the service available to make online inquiries to FOAEA.

National Maintenance Enforcement Survey

Duration
1999-2001
Goal
To build an interface and populate tables needed for Nova Scotia to take part in the National Maintenance Enforcement Survey.
Description
The province hired a consultant to work with the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics to develop automated procedures to generate the data tables required for the national survey. The two phases of the project were completed on schedule, allowing Nova Scotia to deliver data monthly. In 2000-2001, the province made some minor adjustments to correct the formatting of two data elements.

Direct Deposit and Electronic Transfer of Funds

Duration
1998-2000
Goal
To improve client service by providing direct deposit and electronic fund transfer for clients.
Description
The Maintenance Enforcement Program introduced direct deposit and fund transfer options to improve client services. The work included hiring a consultant to produce a user requirement document. The province completed the business analysis and database design phase and the testing and implementation work in 1999-2000, and the system began operation in April 2000.

Integrated Voice Response: Infoline PAA 8: PUBLIC AWARENESS AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

Duration
1997-1998 and 2000-2001
Goal
To maintain and improve the enforcement InfoLine service.
Description
The Maintenance Enforcement Program maintains a telephone service that allows clients to obtain information about the status of their account. In 1997-1998, the province hired a consultant to prepare and implement new scripts incorporating information gathered through new and revised automated forms. In 2000-2001, the program planned a variety of enhancements and updates to the InfoLine. These included the Dial and Deliver feature, which allows clients to leave voice mail for staff. The changes were designed to reflect new enforcement powers and better meet client information needs, while freeing staff to focus on enforcement activities.

Public Information (Child Support Guidelines)

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To ensure that separating and divorcing parents and the general public are fully informed about the child support guidelines and tax reforms so they can make informed decisions about their support agreements or orders.
Description
Since 1997-1998, the province, in partnership with the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia, has maintained a toll-free public enquiry line to provide information about the guidelines and how to obtain further assistance. The service was scaled back as demand decreased. The province and the Society have also distributed federal and provincial materials and held information sessions for the public, intermediaries and service providers. Further, the province delivered general information sessions designed for custodial and non-custodial parents as part of the parent education program. In 1998-1999, the province updated existing self-help kits for unrepresented parents to reflect changes in federal and provincial guidelines, and the Society completed a public information needs assessment project. More recently, the province contracted with the Society to develop fact sheets about the federal and provincial guidelines to complete the communications package.

Public Information (Enforcement)

Duration
1998-2000
Goal
To provide clients, legal professionals and others with information about the Maintenance Enforcement Program.
Description
In 1998-1999, the province produced, through Communications Nova Scotia, a video with descriptive information on three aspects of the Maintenance Enforcement Program: enrolment, payment processing and enforcement. The video was distributed to courts, transition houses, non-custodial parents' groups, professional associations, public legal education information sources and others. The province also published a newsletter for support recipients. In 1999-2000, the program produced a new brochure that provides clients with basic information about enrolling in the Maintenance Enforcement Program and how the Program works.

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

Ms. Judith McPhee
Director
Court Services
Nova Scotia Department of Justice
PO Box 7
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 2L6
Telephone: (902) 424-3880

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