Supporting Families Experiencing Separation and Divorce Initiative Evaluation

4. Key Findings

This section combines information from all lines of evidence and presents the findings according to the broad evaluation issues of relevance and performance.

4.1. Relevance

The evaluation considered the continued relevance of the SFI with respect to the specific needs of Canadian families experiencing separation and divorce, federal government priorities and the alignment with federal roles and responsibilities. The following section outlines the results of this analysis.

4.1.1. Continued Need for the SFI

Overview of Canadian families experiencing separation and divorce

Literature and recent data from Statistics Canada indicate that although the level of divorce in Canada has remained stable in the last two decades (approximately 21.1 divorces per 10,000 in the population) new patterns of separation and divorce have emerged as a result of recent societal changes. These include the growing diversity of Canada's population, diversity of family structure and mobility of families. Also, there is an increase in the number of self-represented litigants (SRLs) in the family justice system, which underscores the continuing need for a national family justice initiative such as the SFI.

The growing diversity in Canada's population indicates that there is a need for family law information and services that reflect the needs of a wider range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds to respond to families experiencing separation and divorce. This includes the need for information for new Canadians who may not be fully aware of their family rights and responsibilities under Canadian law.

The structure of Canadian families has undergone changes in the past few decades with a higher occurrence of same-sex and common-law unions taking place; more participation of fathers in parenting arrangements after separation; and a rise in the divorce rates among men and women over 50 (so-called "grey divorces"). Canadian families also continue to be mobile, which adds to legal complexities when couples separate.

Findings from family justice research literature indicate that family breakdown can potentially lead to multiple adjustment, behavioural, psychological, health and mental health consequences for children and parents. Economic losses are more likely to be experienced by women. It is estimated that 10-20% of separated parents may exhibit longer-term, more intransigent conflict after separation, which would have prolonged, deleterious impacts on children. Footnote 17

The breakdown of family relationships can lead to multiple civil law problems for family members (e.g. debt and consumer problems) leading to a greater demand on criminal and civil justice and social welfare systems. Footnote 18 Lone-parent families also experience higher rates of poverty than other families and shoulder much higher debt burdens. Footnote 19

Family law cases make up a significant component of the civil court system. In 2009/10 family law cases accounted for just over 35% of all civil court cases in the seven reporting provinces and territories Footnote 20 reporting to the CCS. Divorce and other family-breakdown cases involving children (particularly with access and child support issues) remain in the family court longer than cases without issues involving children; 32% of divorce cases involving both access and support issues remained in the family court system for at least four years. Family breakdown cases involving access issues also involve a higher number of court events than those involving only custody or child support issues (e.g. pre-trial hearings and adjournments). Footnote 21 Divorce cases involve various events Footnote 22 and activities connected to court documents, adjournments and hearings. By providing alternatives to court processes, families can seek options that would resolve their issues faster, as well as divert a set of cases that would otherwise consume court resources. The SFI supports several alternatives to court processes including; funding for family justice services such as mediation and recalculation; development of tools for determining support and developing agreements; and the development and distribution of PLEI materials.

A recent Canadian study reveals a rise in the number of SRLs in family matters (between 40-60% in some jurisdictions). Footnote 23 For some it is a monetary issue and the inability to afford a lawyer, but for many others, it is a conscious choice to represent themselves. The rise in the number of SRLs presents issues for the family justice system as a whole, from counter staff, to lawyers and judges.

Specific needs: access to information

The Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters stressed the need for change to make the justice system more accessible. It highlighted the need to provide more information and a single-point of entry. Footnote 24 The SFI helps in both of these areas by providing PLEI Footnote 25 and by providing services such as family law information centers.

Federal, provincial and territorial representatives and family justice professionals indicate that the primary need of families experiencing separation and divorce is for access to early, timely, factual and practical information about the family justice system and out-of-court options, such as mediation, for resolving family issues and developing custody, access and support agreements and arrangements.

This is consistent with findings from a 2010 national survey Footnote 26 of family lawyers and judges, which indicated that a majority believed their clients to be either somewhat or not at all informed about most family justice legal issues. Respondents were also asked if there was a need for additional PLEI materials in their jurisdiction to meet the needs of the cultural minorities, linguistic minorities or other groups that make up their client base. Just under half of the 253 respondents indicated that there was a need when it comes to cultural minorities, compared to the third for linguistic minorities, and the quarter for other groups.

Federal, provincial and territorial representatives and family justice professionals interviewed during the evaluation also identified the need for access to additional PLEI for families with distinctive information needs including First Nations people, as well as those from cultural or linguistic minority backgrounds, and from geographically isolated and remote communities.

Specific needs: access to family justice services

The report of the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, also made a number of recommendations related to the provision of family justice services based on its review and examination of issues relating to parties seeking to resolve their disputes. The CCSO-FJ has also made a business case emphasizing the need for continuity of services and programs by federal, provincial and territorial governments to support separating and divorcing clients of the family justice system, and advocating for sustained, long-term funding from the federal government to help the provinces and territories maintain and continuously improve the delivery of these services.

Federal, provincial and territorial representatives and judges identified a need for triage and screening services at service entry to better determine family needs and identify the most effective services to address these needs. High conflict and complex family justice cases place significant resource demands on the courts, programs and services. Family justice professionals also noted that legal information was not sufficient for some families. Although, outside the scope of the SFI, they identified the value of providing limited, timely and free legal advice for SRLs who need assistance at key points to move their cases along. Also family lawyers and mediators indicated access to mediation in a timely manner after separation was a priority.

Judges also identified a need for more supervised access services, and a wider distribution of services such as mediation in the jurisdictions. This conclusion was consistent with that of federal, provincial and territorial representatives who indicated the need for more balanced and equitable delivery of programs and services in all the jurisdictions.

The SFI has funded a number of pilot projects in the provinces and territories to address the specific needs for triage and screening services, services for high conflict families, and the wider geographical distribution of PLEI and family justice services.

For example:

  • Distance Family Mediation Pilot Project in British Columbia;
  • Screening Tool for Supervised Access and Exchange Services: Supervised Visitation Checklist and Family Law Information Program For Aboriginal People in Ontario;
  • Family Justice Services for High Conflict Families in the Yukon and Nova Scotia; and
  • Differential Response to Conflict Assessment and Access to Family Law on-line in Nova Scotia.
Specific needs: accurate reliable national data

Statistics Canada is no longer reporting national data on marriage and divorce on an annual basis. This has an impact on the ability of all levels of government and the non-profit sector to assess changing patterns of separation and divorce, to track emerging trends or plan and measure the effectiveness of responses to meet the needs of families.

The CCSO-FJ has recognized the need for national data and research in the area of family justice as one of its strategic priorities. FCY provides funding to CCJS through the SFI for the implementation and reporting of two national family justice surveys (the CCS and the Survey of Maintenance Enforcement Programs (SMEP)), which provide a national perspective on families experiencing separation and divorce.

4.1.2. Alignment with Government Priorities

The SFI activities, outputs and the ultimate outcome for this Initiative are fully aligned with Justice Canada's strategic outcome of a fair, relevant and accessible Canadian justice system. Over 90% of federal, provincial and territorial representatives indicated that the goals and objectives of the SFI were aligned with the strategic priorities of Justice Canada.

The comprehensive leadership, assistance and investment activities undertaken by the SFI are also aligned with the federal government commitment to ensure that Canadian families experiencing separation and divorce will continue to be well served. Footnote 27

The SFI also supports activities, programs and services directed towards assisting parents to comply with their custody, access and support obligations, which is aligned with the federal government priority to build a stronger society that promotes respect for the law. Footnote 28 All of the federal, provincial and territorial representatives interviewed for the evaluation felt that the SFI had contributed to meeting this objective.

4.1.3. Alignment with Federal Roles and Responsibilities

The federal government through the SFI implements leadership, assistance and investment activities that reflect the federal government's mandate and responsibilities in the family justice system.

Family law in Canada is an area of shared jurisdiction between the federal and provincial and territorial governments, as a result of the distribution of legislative powers under the Constitution Act, 1867. The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction in the area of divorce. It exercises that jurisdiction through the Divorce Act which includes provisions dealing with corollary relief (child and spousal support, custody and access), the CRDP, and the designation of child support recalculation services. The provinces and territories have jurisdiction over matters related to the separation of unmarried couples as well as support, custody and access where no divorce is sought. The federal government has an important role in the development of family law (advancing access to justice) nationally and internationally through participation in international meetings and conferences of organizations such as the International Heads of Child Support Agencies, the U.S. National Child Support Enforcement Association and the Organization of American States.

Enforcement of support obligations is primarily a provincial and territorial responsibility; however, the federal government provides assistance to provinces and territories in their enforcement activities including tools and funding to support the enforcement of family support orders and agreements. This includes services provided under FOAEAA and GAPDA. FOAEAA provides the authority for the tracing and locating of support debtors using federal information banks, intercepting federal moneys to satisfy family support obligations and the denial of federal licences and passports to compel compliance. GAPDA provides for the garnishment of federal salaries and other forms of remuneration, including the diversion of pension benefits to meet the terms of support orders and agreements.

Through contributions made under the SFF, the federal government plays a significant role in supporting ongoing quality improvement and innovation of family justice services and programs directly administered by the provinces and territories. The SFF provides contribution funding to support programs such as parent education programs, mediation, child support recalculation, services for children, technological improvements of enforcement systems, the development of family law education and information centres and resources, and family justice research, policy and evaluation initiatives.

Through the SFI, the federal government also plays a role in advancing policy in the area of family law which fosters federal, provincial and territorial collaboration as well as the identification of best practices and research.

Although the role and mandate of the federal government are distinct from those of the provinces and territories, the different governments work together within a clearly defined structure of collaboration. This ensures that the SFI contributes to addressing issues of access to justice and parental compliance with custody, access and support obligations, to help mitigate the negative effects of separation and divorce and to ensure that the best interests of the child remain at the heart of family justice.

4.2. Performance: Achievement of Expected Outcomes (Effectiveness)

The leadership, investment and assistance activities undertaken by FCY through the SFI are ultimately expected to result in increased effectiveness of the family justice system in addressing the needs of families experiencing separation and divorce. The following section outlines the extent to which the SFI direct and intermediate outcomes have been achieved and the impact they have had on realizing this long-term outcome.

4.2.1. Federal, Provincial and Territorial Capacity

A strengthened federal capacity to respond to the needs of families experiencing separation and divorce is integrally linked to improving the capacity of the provinces and territories to provide and deliver family justice services.

All of the federal, provincial and territorial representatives involved in the evaluation indicated that SFI activities have strengthened federal capacity to address the needs of families. Activities considered to best meet this objective were: providing contribution funding through the SFF to improve enforcement systems; supporting the gathering and dissemination of national enforcement data through two national surveys (the CCS and the SMEP); ensuring PLEI is available on the Justice Canada website and in printed documents including The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step; and providing leadership through the FCY in terms of collaboration and partnership-building with the provinces and territories.

The SFI has also enhanced the capacity of the provinces and territories to provide and deliver family justice services that meet the needs of families experiencing separation and divorce. This has occurred through: the provision of federal contributions to support family justice services and programs in the provinces and territories; federal, provincial and territorial collaboration and partnership building that strengthen program and policy development; and the provision of enforcement tools and support that assist the provinces and territories in their custody/ access and support enforcement related activities.

Federal, provincial and territorial collaboration and partnership

The SFI has made progress towards strengthened federal capacity to respond to and address the needs of families through activities that include: leadership and coordination at the federal and international levels (ongoing support to negotiations including the Hague Conference, UN and Council of Europe); research analysis and provision of monitoring tools; policy development and guidance; the development and dissemination of PLEI products by FCY; the provision of tools and funding that encourage compliance and facilitate enforcement; and the SFI's role in the development of two national surveys covering the civil courts in Canada, and maintenance enforcement programs in Canada. However, the lack of federal legislative amendments during the Initiative has limited federal capacity to address some needs including improving and expanding tracing tools and adding additional federal licences that could be suspended.

FCY also supports federal, provincial and territorial collaboration and partnership building through the CCSO-FJ, its three sub-committees (Enforcement, Inter-jurisdictional Support and Research) and working groups. The work of these committees includes partnership building, information exchange, collaboration on projects that guides program and policy development, policy discussions and the harmonization of research efforts to enhance national information. The needs of families identified at the committee or working group levels also identify funding priorities that can be addressed through the SFF.

The leadership role FCY has played in supporting collaboration and partnership building related to family justice was particularly valued by all provincial and territorial representatives who indicated that FCY has managed this role both efficiently and effectively. The general discussions and exchange of information between the jurisdictions that have taken place at face-to-face meetings and via teleconferences, the CCSO-FJ and cross-jurisdiction committee work on enforcement, research and policy initiatives undertaken at the federal level, and the access to federal enforcement support and collaboration with respect to enforcement tools were the activities identified as having had the most impact on strengthening the role of the federal government. Some provincial and territorial representatives indicated the FCY's encouragement of joint projects between the provinces and territories also strengthened the federal role in meeting the needs of families experiencing separation and divorce.

Federal legislation and policy development

Concerns were expressed by some family justice professionals that federal legislation has not kept pace with the evolving needs of parents or with legislative changes in the provinces and territories. It was noted that many jurisdictions have already proceeded with amendments to their own legislation to improve and update their family law statutes.

Family lawyers and mediators also indicated that federal terminology for custody and access was outdated and no longer aligned with the key objectives of reducing conflict and promoting collaboration. Some jurisdictions have taken the lead in moving away from these and have adopted parenting order terminology. There are many other areas where legislative reforms are called for by the provinces and territories or by the legal community. Some of these include dealing with relocation, providing more effective processes for child support recalculation services and providing additional federal information sources to improve support enforcement tools.

A number of amendments to the Divorce Act, FOAEAA and GAPDA have been identified to respond to issues that have been raised. For example, the Divorce Act requires amendments to simplify the current two-step process for varying inter-jurisdictional support orders (ISO). FOAEAA and GAPDA require amendments to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of enforcement services. These and other legislative amendments are necessary as they address issues that cannot be dealt with through regulations and other policy instruments.

Although FCY was not able to have any legislative amendments tabled under the SFI Footnote 29, a number of regulatory amendments were made and several legal challenges to the Divorce Act and FOAEAA were successfully defended. FCY also assisted other divisions of Justice Canada and/or other government departments in relation to Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act; Bill C-299, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (in regard to the kidnapping of young persons); and Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (in regard to accountability of offenders). FCY has also helped provinces and territories develop their own legislation or regulations, for example, to help establish child support recalculation services.

The development of the SSAG Footnote 30 is another example of a FCY-led initiative that has enhanced federal capacity to address the needs of families experiencing separation and divorce. They are informal guidelines (not legislated) that operate on an advisory basis only. They were intended to assist lawyers, mediators and judges in determining the amount and duration of spousal support within the existing legal framework of the Divorce Act and the common law. Although the SSAG was developed in 2008, the FCY has continued to work on post development activities related to implementation.

A Justice Canada study involving key family justice stakeholders found that the guidelines help to reduce conflict and encourages settlement of spousal support which is likely to reduce the number of cases going to court. The approach to spousal support amounts is generally being used in the jurisdictions and applied in cases both with and without judicial involvement. There was also a perception by family law lawyers that the SAAG have reduced the cost and increased the efficiency of determining spousal support awards.

During the initiative, a number of research and best practice documents on support enforcement were prepared with input from all provinces and territories. The sharing of information, handbooks, and best practices has also strengthened the capacity of the provinces and territories to meet the needs of families in the area of child support.

Research activities

National data and research in the area of family justice are one of the main priorities identified by the CCSO-FJ. FCY actively addresses this priority; through SFF contribution agreements with provinces and territories that include support of research activities; development of data summaries and reports for use by the provinces and territories; and through partnership with the CCJS. The CCJS is responsible for the development and establishment of two national family law information surveys: the CCS Footnote 31 which tracks cases and case activity in the civil and family courts and the SMEP Footnote 32 which tracks activities and outcomes of cases in MEPs. FCY has provided support through a transfer of SFI dollars to CCJS for each year of the Initiative to undertake a number of activities related to these two national surveys including: collection and processing of monthly data from reporting jurisdictions, analysis of data quality and reporting, regular development and maintenance of the survey processing system, and facilitating the participation of new jurisdictions in the surveys Footnote 33including development, testing and implementation of, and updating and maintaining survey interfaces.

Since 2009, CCJS has facilitated the participation of one additional province in the regular collection of data for each of the two national surveys (CCS and SMEP) and has compiled data from these surveys to update family law CANSIM Footnote 34tables and to publish eight Juristat articles (including Payment Patterns of Child and Spousal Support and Divorce Cases in Civil Court, 2010/2011). The Juristats and CANSIM tables, which are publicly available, can help increase awareness of current trends in the area of family justice. FCY has also used this new data to develop a number of research summaries to inform their work in CCSO-FJ sub-committees. National survey data prioritized by the SFI in collaboration with the provinces and territories enhances planning and evaluation capacity and is fundamental to understanding the needs of families. This encompasses the CCJS surveys, as well as ad hoc FCY efforts to address information gaps. In the absence of national marriage and divorce statistics being reported by Statistics Canada, the partnership with CCJS to collect national family law data through these two surveys is even more crucial.

Federal public legal education and information

The SFI has enhanced the capacity of the federal government to meet the needs of families experiencing separation and divorce by developing and disseminating PLEI products (online and hard copy). These include interactive tools such as the child support online lookup, a children's calendar, and two parenting tools developed by the FCY to help parents make decisions and build a parenting plan for their children. Additionally, the main child support publication, The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step, is being updated and the database of family justice services, the Inventory of Government-Based Family Justice Services has also been updated on an annual basis.

Almost 235,000 hardcopies of federal PLEI publications outlining procedures related to separation and divorce were distributed during the SFI (2009-2013). These included: What Happens Next: Information for Kids about Separation and Divorce (123,309 copies distributed), The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step (67,031 copies distributed) and Divorce Questions & Answers (44,613 distributed). To increase their accessibility, these documents were also made available electronically on the Justice Canada Website (justice.gc.ca). In 2012 alone, an additional 1,027,335 copies of these documents were downloaded (including 772,893 copies of Divorce Law Questions & Answers, 241,146 copies of The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step and 13,296 copies of What Happens Next: Information for Kids about Separation and Divorce).

Also in 2012-13, there were 1,201,757 visits to the family law sections of the Justice Canada website. This accounts for 41% of all visits to the website during this period making family law the most visited content on the Justice Canada website. It also had the most frequent family law downloads in 2012-13: Divorce Law Questions & Answers (475,699), SSAG (140,778) and The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step (71,317). In the summer of 2013, Making Plans, a guide for parents, and the Parenting Plan Tool were two new products added to the Justice Canada website. Feedback through a web survey has been positive with regards to the content and usefulness of these new products in understanding and creating a parenting plan.

In addition to the federal PLEI products, Justice Canada provides general legal information by telephone through the Family Justice Information Line, Footnote 35 which received a total of 17,394 family justice information requests between 2009 and 2013. The Automated Interactive Voice Response Line operated by FLAS provides important information to debtors about the status of their federal garnishment. This line receives approximately 5,500-6,500 calls per month indicating a sustained level of use by parents who require this information.

Supporting Families Fund

Through the SFF, the SFI provides financial support to provincial and territorial governments for the provision of family justice services with the average federal share of total federal, provincial and territorial contributions to family justice services being 20%. This number ranges however, from 6% to 70% depending on the jurisdiction. Smaller jurisdictions are more reliant on the contributions from the SFF. In eight of the provinces and territories, federal contributions represent over 40% of funding directed to family justice services, reflecting the importance of this federal assistance. Funding is also provided to NGOs for developing family law PLEI and training resources.

Over a three-year period (2009-2012), 100% of the SFF was allocated and 99.3% Footnote 36 ($47,655,249) was expended on various provincial and territorial FJI and Pilot Projects as well as PLEI projects delivered by NGOs. For this evaluation, SFF expenditures for these activities and projects were linked to the achievement of SFI outcomes. It is important to note that more than one outcome can be achieved by the same dollar expended and if totaled the individual percentages will exceed 100%.

Between 2009 and 2012, 14.6% Footnote 37 of the SFF was directed towards activities and projects that helped strengthen the federal capacity. This included funding for: the provinces and territories to send a representative to CCSO-FJ sub-committees (Research, Enforcement and ISO) in-person meetings to coordinate SFI funded activities; programs and services in the jurisdictions; and resources to conduct research and planning to improve services.

A SFF funded pilot project that helped to enhance federal capacity involved identifying issues that have arisen in both Canada and internationally regarding the voice of the child as heard in family law proceedings. This project identified best practices that can be utilized in all the jurisdictions that are considering mechanisms to involve children in family proceedings. The project also involved an international policy component as consultations were conducted with international partners at the 5th World Congress on Family Law and Children's Right in 2009.

During this same period, 75.9% Footnote 38 of the SFF was directed to enhancing provincial and territorial capacity in the family justice area through the funding of provincial and territorial FJI activities, Pilot Projects and PLEI projects. These activities included the delivery of family justice services such as parent education and mediation programs, training programs for family law professionals, and the provision of enforcement tools and systems maintenance that assist the provinces and territories in their enforcement related activities.

An example of an activity funded under the SFF that has helped to enhance capacity in the provinces and territories is a pilot project that involved a customization/adaptation of the New Brunswick MEP for use in Prince Edward Island. A review of the contribution file indicated that this joint project led to increased efficiencies in closing cases, increased collections of payments and the streamlining of the enforcement process. Cost savings resulting from the adaptation of the enforcement model to Prince Edward Island were substantial.

Another innovative project funded under the SFF Footnote 39 and reviewed as a case study for the evaluation involved updating ISO guides and an online interactive video that provides information to parents and family justice professionals on ISO. Since 12% of support orders in Canada are inter-jurisdictional in nature, this project constitutes an important contribution to the provinces and territories. It also enhances their ability to achieve support compliance related to ISO by making information available to parents and family justice professionals.

The SFI has also enhanced the capacity of the provinces and territories to address the needs of families by providing training and resource materials to family justice professionals who work with families experiencing separation and divorce. Training has been made available for mediators and family justice professionals working with high conflict parents, those involved with supervised access, enforcement and other family justice services.

The High Conflict Train the Trainer multi-year project, a pilot project funded under SFI, is an example of how providing training to family justice professionals enhanced the capacity of provinces and territories to best meet the needs of families experiencing separation and divorce. This project was developed with input from FCY and the CCSO-FJ Research Sub-Committee. This training program enhanced the skills of family justice professionals working with high conflict parents. Two training sessions were held in each of the participating provinces and territories. It was intended that participants in the training would go on to provide training and expertise to other family justice professionals in their jurisdictions although the degree to which this occurred has not yet been assessed. The results of pre- and post- exit surveys indicated that the training increased the skill base and knowledge level required for all participants in terms of understanding the characteristics, needs, appropriate screening tools and responses to high conflict parents in the justice system.

Funding to produce legal information products was also provided through the SFF often to community-based non-profit organizations in the jurisdictions. One such PLEI project, involved the delivery of family law information sessions to parents and family justice professionals in rural and remote communities across Newfoundland and Labrador. These sessions provided information on the family justice system and options for achieving custody, access and support compliance. First Nations and remote communities were a major target group of this project.

Ninety percent of federal, provincial and territorial representatives indicated that the SFI had strengthened the capacity of the provinces and territories to provide family justice services. The components of the SFI that were considered to be most effective in meeting this outcome included the SFF contribution funding, research, enforcement support activities and funding for collaboration and information sharing at the federal level through committees such as the CCSO-FJ.

Although concerns were raised regarding the amount of funding, the SFF was considered essential by provincial and territorial representatives to providing the services and programs in their jurisdictions that meet the basic needs of families experiencing separation or divorce; leveraging existing family justice funding to develop more effective family justice services; or testing and improving innovative approaches to assist families.

All of the provinces and territories stated that the SFI has helped them expand or at least maintain the level of family justice services in their jurisdictions during the past five years. For eight of the jurisdictions, federal contributions provide more than 40% of the funding for family justice services. These represented smaller jurisdictions as well as larger jurisdictions where there is a concentration of services in a specific area (e.g. mediation). In these jurisdictions the SFI is seen as essential in maintaining a basic level of services to meet the needs of parents experiencing separation and divorce.

Support enforcement

The SFI also supports the development, improvement and application of support enforcement tools that strengthen federal, provincial and territorial capacity in the area of support enforcement. Funding, policy development, regulatory amendments, renegotiation of agreements and research activities have contributed to improvements and efficiencies in the application of enforcement tools under FOAEAA and GAPDA. This is despite the lack of amendments to these Acts during the Initiative.

The enforcement activities undertaken by FCY also made an increasingly important contribution to the potential reach of enforcement in the provinces and territories. This is reflected in the increasing number of tracing applications to the federal government (averaging 20,000 – 25,000 per year between 2008 and 2011 and increasing to over 35,000 by 2012) and in the number of garnishment activities resulting in funds (an increase of 31% between 2009-10 and 2012-13). In 2012-13, 10,595 valid applications for the denial or suspension of licences were processed, a significant increase over 2011-12. There has been a 16% increase in the number of passport, aviation and marine licence suspensions during the period between 2009-10 and 2012-2013.

Multiple improvements and enhancements to federal enforcement tools were undertaken during the SFI. Improvements included: enhancements to FLAS enforcement systems and technologies; and increased use of electronic transfer protocols for exchange of information which brought about efficiencies, greater integrity of data and improved timeliness of enforcement tools. The enforcement services under FOAEAA and GAPDA are requested by the provinces and territories. The rise in the use of these services indicates that the jurisdictions see these services as contributing to their capacity to manage child support enforcement. Specific examples of enforcement improvements that were identified as enhancing the capacity of the provinces and territories include:

  • improvements to the exchange of information with provincial and territorial partners through wider use of File Transfer Protocol exchanges;
  • amendments of the FOAEA schedule to update references to marine licences in regards to the Marine Personnel Regulations;
  • amendment of FOAEA Garnishment Regulations to designate several new sources of moneys; and
  • development of a Memorandum of Agreement to improve the administration & effectiveness of passport suspensions.

Provinces and territories indicated that enforcement assistance provided by the SFI had been helpful in their jurisdictions. The technological assistance and funding provided to improve MEP systems and the national data on MEPs reported by the SMEP were considered to be valuable.

Another way that the SFI has strengthened the federal capacity to respond to the needs of families is through the management of the Automated Interactive Voice Response Line Footnote 40 which provides important information to creditors and debtors about the federal enforcement tools and the status of the garnishment applications.

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