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

SASKATCHEWAN

PAA 1: PROJECT COORDINATION

Planning and Coordination

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To ensure adequate and consistent awards for the benefit of children by coordinating the implementation of child support guidelines in collaboration with the federal government, other provincial and territorial governments, and professional and community stakeholders.
Description
Saskatchewan has maintained an interdepartmental committee structure and project support team to ensure that the province can actively participate in the federal-provincial-territorial planning and consultation process and meet its obligations for project management, funding and research initiatives. As the responsibility for child support guidelines crosses over several departments and a number of branches within Saskatchewan Justice, an interdepartmental committee was created to oversee the initiative. A project manager supports the committee. The chair of the interdepartmental committee, the project manager and others have been active participants in the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Task Force and other federal-provincial-territorial meetings.

Enforcement Project Coordination

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To manage the federally funded enforcement projects and activities.
Description
The duties of the part-time project manager, a position established in 1997-1998, include researching and drafting proposals and project reports, managing budgets, coordinating claims submissions and audits, and other activities associated with federally funded projects. The project manager also supports the province's participation in national planning and collaboration activities. (Note: The Saskatchewan Maintenance Enforcement Office allocated federal funds available for coordination to offset travel costs associated with its participation in national and federalprovincial-territorial meetings.)

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

National Consultations on Custody, Access and Child Support

Duration
2000-2000
Goal
To ensure that Saskatchewan voices are heard in national consultations.
Description
The Interdepartmental Family Justice Committee planned several invitational workshops spread across urban, rural and northern areas. These were delivered in Yorkton on April 10, 2001, in Regina on April 11, 2001, and in Saskatoon on May 11, 2001. On the Committee's recommendation, workshops were also held in Aboriginal communities and with youth.

PAA 3: FAMILY JUSTICE ENHANCEMENTS AND INNOVATIONS

Enhanced Court Services

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To ensure that the family court system could respond to an increased volume of variation applications.
Description
The province assigned an additional eight court clerks to deal with increased workloads beginning in 1997-1998, but did not create specialized child support guidelines positions. Rather, the responsibilities of all clerks were modified to include providing information about the guidelines and making applications for original or varied support orders, helping people using the variations kit, and accepting filing documents and preparing files for consideration by judges. The clerks also collect statistics on child support cases to support research on the implementation of the guidelines.

ChildView Licences

Duration
1999-2001
Goal
To ensure that the family court system can respond to an increased volume of variation applications.
Description
Saskatchewan allocated 1999-2000 federal resources to maintain its licences for the ChildView software that is used by departmental and court personnel, judges and legal aid lawyers.

Lawyer Referral Line

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To help low- and middle-income people who are not eligible for legal aid services pursue variations.
Description
The Law Society of Saskatchewan, with financial assistance from the province, maintained a toll-free line that provided callers with a list of family lawyers in the area who offered half-hour consultations for a nominal fee (approximately $25). A part-time Law Society staff member responded to an average of 16 calls per month from April 1997 to January 1998. Subsequently, the demand for service dropped to one to five calls per month. As a result, the use of a special line was abandoned in 1998-1999, and the service has since been managed through the Society's general enquiry line.

Training Duration Goal

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To ensure that court and Family Law Division staff and family lawyers have the knowledge and skills they need to discharge their responsibilities.
Description
In 1997-1998, the Saskatchewan Legal Education Society provided training opportunities for lawyers practising family law. The province delivered general training for all court and government staff through regional sessions. It also organized additional training for groups such as the information line operators. Further, to inform community professionals about the separation and divorce education services offered by Saskatchewan Justice, sessions were held in nine communities around the province. Local lawyers, aided by a facilitator's manual, led the two-hour sessions. In 1998-1999, Saskatchewan Justice used Law Society mail-outs to inform lawyers of matters such as legislative developments and amendments, and the availability of a child care tax bulletin.

Parent Education

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To help parents decide whether to continue existing arrangements, elect a different tax treatment, enter into an agreement or start variation proceedings.
Description
The province began offering an information program for parents in 1997-1998. The original program focussed on child support guidelines, but in 1998-1999 the subject matter and format of the sessions was expanded to three two-hour sessions covering resolving disputes, child support guidelines, stages of separation and divorce, children's reactions and parenting after divorce. The sessions are co-facilitated by staff from Family Law Support Services and Mediation Services and are normally delivered on separate evenings, but in some centres they are delivered in a single six-hour session. Participation in the sessions is voluntary and the province distributes posters and other materials through Department of Social Services offices, churches, libraries, the courts, law offices and other offices and locations to promote participation. The program benefits from participant feedback obtained through questionnaires distributed at the end of the sessions. Generally, participants have been positive about the program, especially the modules dealing with children's reactions to family break-up, separation and divorce. Participants' comments and suggestions have led to revisions in the facilitator's guide to include core modules and optional modules so the sessions can be tailored to address the specific needs of individuals or communities. Further planned changes include piloting a mandatory program, arranging for delivery of sessions in rural communities through community groups, and adding a module dealing with high conflict relationships.

Children's Education

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To help children experiencing separation and divorce.
Description
In 1997-1998, the province developed a curriculum and produced facilitator's guides for education sessions designed for children in three age groups (6 to 9 years, 9 to 12 years and 12 to 16 years) to give them information about the legal process as well as the emotional experiences and changes in relationships that may occur following their parents' separation or divorce. In 1998-1999, the curriculum was revised to include activities more relevant to high conflict families and multiple partner families. The province continues to make the curriculum, facilitator's guide and supporting materials available to community groups that organize and deliver sessions for children.

Children's Video

Duration
1997-1999
Goal
To help children whose parents are separated or divorcing understand the process and their involvement in it.
Description
In 1997-1998 and 1998-1999, the province produced videos for three age groups. A young girl who lives with her father but may be in joint custody arrangement narrates It's Different Now, But That's OK, which is written for 6-to 9-year-olds. A pre-adolescent boy, who speaks of not seeing his father as often as he would like and the role that his extended family plays, narrates the video for 9-to 12-year-olds. A teenage girl narrates the video for 12-to 16-year-olds. It touches on situations in which siblings are separated as a result of the custody arrangements and addresses issues that arise when a parent starts a new relationship. Each of the videos features a family lawyer, a family law judge and a social worker who prepares custody and access assessments, who explain the legal process of separation and divorce as well as common feelings, reactions and relationship changes that occur after separation and divorce. The videos were distributed to Family Law Support Services offices, regional library branches, the Department of Social Services, youth facilities, district health boards and interested community agencies. The productions have been well received. Some judges have ordered parents to watch the video as a prerequisite to formal proceedings.

Hearing Children's Voices

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To develop a mechanism to ensure that children's wishes are made known and proceedings focus on the best interests of children.
Description
Saskatchewan introduced special custody and access assessments in 2000-2001 that focus on the children's perspective in separation and divorce. Children's Voices reports are completed more quickly than full custody and access reports because the assessor only interviews the children. The Children's Voices reports were developed in response to a recurring request in both national and provincial public consultations held in Saskatchewan to hear the perspectives and opinions of children who are the subjects of custody and access disputes. The reports are only available by court order and involve a social worker interviewing the children and preparing a written report for the court expressing the children's views. These assessments are designed for families whose children are of an age or maturity level that they can accurately express their opinions. The speed with which the reports are available benefits both the families and the courts.

Professional Education

Duration
1998-1999
Goal
To raise awareness about child support guidelines and to encourage professionals to make referrals to the parent education program.
Description
The half-day professional education sessions are designed for clergy, lawyers, teachers, health care staff, community workers, employee assistance program providers and others likely to have professional contact with families experiencing separation and divorce. In 1998-1999, eight such sessions, attended by 140 people, were held at various locations around the province. Two sessions were held the following year and more were requested.

Self-help Kits

Duration
1997-1998
Goal
To help individuals who wish to obtain or vary a support order without legal representation.
Description
A self-help kit was developed by Saskatchewan Justice and distributed, free of charge, through court and government services locations. Approximately 2,000 copies were distributed in 1997-1998. The province continues to distribute the kits.

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

(See Dispute Resolution Clerk, page 127.)

PAA 5: SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

FOAEA Enhancements

Duration
1997-2000
Goal
To establish online access to the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance (FOAEA) system to enter tracing, interception and licence-denial applications and affidavits.
Description
In addition to purchasing the required encryption software and computers, the Maintenance Enforcement Office designed new forms and integrated them into its system during 1997-1998. From 1998 to 2000, the Office hired additional staff to handle the workload that resulted from the centralization of work processes made necessary by the FOAEA enhancements and the online. The province also allocated federal funds to purchase additional workstations, implement a file transfer protocol application for the transfer of information to the FOAEA office in Ottawa, purchase encryption-security software licences, and upgrade the system for the electronic transfer of funds collected from federal sources.

Credit Bureau Reporting

Duration
1998-1999
Goal
To implement provincial legislation allowing the Maintenance Enforcement Office to report defaulters to the credit bureau.
Description
Prior to completing an implementation plan in 1998-1999, project managers consulted with officials in Manitoba, where the credit bureau reporting remedy had been introduced previously. The implementation work included modifications to the database to facilitate reporting to the credit bureau.

Licence Withholding

Duration
1997-1998
Goal
To improve the administration of the licence-withholding process.
Description
The Maintenance Enforcement Office created a new licence-withholding clerk position to control the withholding function for two of the three officer teams. The clerk monitors case files to identify default payors who meet the criteria for licence withholding, prepares notices and initiates withholding action as appropriate. It was found that, during the assessment period, the teams supported by the clerk used licence withholding more frequently than the team that was not supported by a withholding clerk. Specifically, parents whose cases were being handled by a team with the support of the clerk were 223 percent more likely to receive a first notice of driver's licence withholding, 203 percent more likely to receive a second notice and 214 percent more likely to have a licence withheld.

Electronic Banking

Duration
1999-2001
Goal
To improve the administrative efficiency of the Maintenance Enforcement Office.
Description
The Saskatchewan Maintenance Enforcement Office established and evaluated an electronic link with its bank to allow pre-authorized payment arrangements for respondents and direct deposits to claimants' accounts.

System Enhancements

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To enhance the Maintenance Enforcement Office's computer network and applications.
Description
The office bought additional equipment and computer applications in 1997-1998. Further, it implemented system reviews and modifications to ensure Year 2000 compliance, to improve its table maintenance capabilities, and to perform a number of new functions needed to accommodate legislative changes or to improve the efficiency and reliability of the system. The following year, 1998-1999, the office purchased additional desk units and applications to provide more officers with direct access to case management systems and external databases. It also designed and installed new forms and continued overall system enhancements including installation of a network hub for use in accessing the FOAEA system in 1999-2000. In 2000-2001, the office made system improvements affecting preparation of reports to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics and automated the direct deposit procedures to Alberta accounts to eliminate the risk of hand-input error.

System Support Analyst

Duration
1999-2001
Goal
To provide information technology services.
Description
The Maintenance Enforcement Office employed a systems analyst to identify systems improvement needs and opportunities and to plan and coordinate contracted work. The analyst is also responsible for staff training.

Client Service Representatives

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To improve client satisfaction rates.
Description
The Maintenance Enforcement Office employed two client service representatives whose responsibilities include routinely contacting new registrants to ensure that they are familiar with the Office's services and procedures. The client service representatives also respond to questions and complaints raised by clients.

PAA 6: RECIPROCAL ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES

Legislative Reform

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To facilitate reciprocal enforcement of support orders.
Description
Representatives of the Maintenance Enforcement Office participated in drafting the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act and prepared for the introduction and implementation of the legislation.

PAA 7: POLICY, RESEARCH AND EVALUATION

Monitoring and Evaluation Activities

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To track the impact of the child support guidelines on services and programs to help with program and policy development.
Description
In addition to participating in national planning and data collection activities (national Survey of Child Support Awards), the province established a five-year framework for monitoring and evaluating new and enhanced activities. Further, the maintenance enforcement database was enhanced to collect information on variations, and judgments are reviewed on an ongoing basis to monitor increases and decreases in original orders and examine arguments related to issues such as extraordinary expenses, undue hardship and income determination. The province has identified a number of evaluation issues falling in two broad categories: the impact of child support guidelines and the new tax treatment, and the impact of the provincial implementation strategy. In 1998-1999 and 1999-2000, the province conducted a survey of maintenance enforcement clients to, in part, assess their awareness of and opinions about child support guidelines. The province also published a review of its mediation services[29] and planned to survey family law professionals and judges about maintenance enforcement and child support guidelines.

In the fall of 2000, Saskatchewan held a series of multidisciplinary workshops to identify priorities for services and programs to be delivered by communities in relation to custody and access issues. The series included workshops in Aboriginal communities, for youth and for the Bench and Bar.

PAA 8: PUBLIC AWARENESS AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

Public Information and Education

Duration
1997-1998
Goal
To provide information to the public about new and established maintenance enforcement procedures and provisions.
Description
In 1997-1998, the Maintenance Enforcement Office delivered two-hour information sessions in eight centres and offered one-on-one sessions with a maintenance enforcement officer. The group and individual sessions were advertised in newspapers and cheque mail-outs. In the individual sessions, which proved very successful, officers with documents and a summary of enforcement actions dealt with specific cases as well as general issues. The group sessions were generally well attended, and 152 individual sessions were conducted.

Promotion and Print Materials

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To inform the public about the guidelines and related services.
Description
Since 1997, the province has been distributing provincial and federal posters, variation kits, self-help materials and other printed information packages through the courts, recreation centres, Family Law Support Services offices, social service offices and other locations.

Toll-free Information Line

Duration
1997-2001
Goal
To provide information about Saskatchewan's provincial legislation and guidelines services, complementing the Department of Justice Canada's toll-free line.
Description
The toll-free line provides general information about the guidelines and services such as the lawyer referral line, education sessions and self-help kits. In the first year of operation, the line handled 2,771 calls. The following year, the line received 1,384 calls, 313 of which were referred to other agencies (Revenue Canada, the Saskatchewan Maintenance Enforcement Office, the lawyer referral line, legal aid and others). In 1999-2000, there were 1,004 calls and 338 referrals. In addition to providing immediate responses to callers' questions, information line staff also mail variation kits, self-help materials, and other information packages to callers requiring such materials. About two thirds of the callers are women.

INCENTIVE FOR SPECIAL PROJECTS

Dispute Resolution Clerk

Duration
2000-2001
Goal
To provide administrative alternatives for the variation and recalculation of child support amounts.
Description
Saskatchewan plans to develop an administrative mechanism to determine variations and other recalculations of child support through a dispute resolution clerk operating out of the Maintenance Enforcement Office. Currently, parties seeking a recalculation must hire a lawyer or use a self-help kit. The dispute resolution clerk, or conciliator, would receive referrals from the Maintenance Enforcement Office and travel to each judicial centre on the same day each month. The conciliator's duties would involve administrative assessment of changes in the parties' financial circumstances or the custody and access of the children, and the impact of these changes on existing orders or agreements. Conciliation and mediation services would also be offered to clients to help them arrive at their own agreement. In cases in which custody or access are issues, the conciliator could provide mediation when possible, or refer parties to Mediation Services. The service would be accessible by toll-free line and by mail. The program will be evaluated.

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

Ms. Betty Ann Pottruff, QC
Director, Policy, Planning and Evaluation Branch
Saskatchewan Justice
1874 Scarth Street, 4th Floor
Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 3V7 Telephone: (306) 787-8954

Mr. Lionel McNabb
Director, Maintenance Enforcement Office
Saskatchewan Justice
100-3085 Albert Street
Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 0B1
Telephone: (306) 787-1650

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