Evaluation of the B.C. Family Maintenance Enforcement Program's Pilot Outreach Project

2004-FCY-4E

5.0 EVALUATION FINDINGS (cont'd)

5.3 Payment Conference Outcome Assessment

5.3.1 Description and Participation Rates

The Payment Conference Outcome Assessment Form was used to aggregate payor demographic and case data and to identify payment and other outcomes arising from Payment Conferences.

The Payment Conference is an enforcement mechanism used by the FMEP to attempt to reach a Voluntary Payment Arrangement (VPA) with payors owing substantial maintenance arrears in order to avoid a Default Hearing. Payors are referred to Payment Conferences by FMEP Enforcement Officers. Conferences are held at two Rule 5 Family Justice Centre sites (Vancouver Courthouse and Surrey). They are coordinated and attended by the Pilot Outreach Project Officer.

Twenty-five Payment Conferences, involving 23 payors, were assessed. The cases included all payors who attended a Payment Conference or had been contacted by telephone between August 2001 and August 2002. Most of the Payment Conferences (23/25) were held in person, in 2/25 cases deliberations were conducted by telephone. Most consisted of one meeting; in two cases a second meeting was held.

5.3.2 Description of the Payment Conference Outcome Assessment Form

The Payment Conference Outcome Assessment Form aggregated data from the following sources: FMEP Case Data (primarily the running record), the Payment Conference Summary Form and the FMEP Referral Form.

The specific types of data collected for the Payment Conference Outcome Assessment were:

  • Payor demographic data (e.g. gender, type of order, location and employment);
  • Case data (arrears amount, payments made, enforcement and contact history);
  • Data on Payment Conference outcomes.

5.3.3 Types of Outcomes Measured

Three outcomes (immediate, intermediate and final), based on the timing of results, were used to reflect the stages and timing of possible outcomes arising from the Payment Conference. Table 20 describes the outcomes assessed in this component of the evaluation.

Most of the data for the Payment Conference Outcome Assessment was collected from the FMEP running record, which compiles, in a narrative form, the actions and outcomes related to each case.

The data was inputted into the The Survey System data management and statistical analysis program. Data was aggregated by frequency counts and thematic analysis.

Table 20 Outcomes Measured by the Payment Conference Outcome Assessment

Type of Outcome Description of Outcome Outcome Questions
IMMEDIATE OUTCOMES New information arising from the Payment Conference · Did the payor provide new financial information at the Payment Conference? (e.g. Statement of Finances, Revenue Canada data, bank statement, personal asset data, credit card statement or loan documentation.)
· Did the payor provide new information on self-employment? (e.g. Business Statement, payroll information, business name, assets or location.)
· Were new assets found as a result of the Payment Conference? (e.g. vehicle, property, bank account, RRSP.)
Establishment of payor's capacity to pay. · Does the payor have the capacity to pay arrears?
· What factors have limited the payor's capacity to pay arrears?
INTERMEDIATE OUTCOMES Development of Voluntary Payment Arrangement (VPA) or Interim Payment Arrangement. · Was a VPA or Interim Payment Arrangement developed as a result of the Payment Conference?
Level and type of referrals made. · What (if any) referral sources were recommended to the payor?
Recommendation to vary the maintenance order. · What was the time frame given to the payor within which to vary the order?
FINAL
OUTCOMES
Payments made. · To what degree were the terms of the VPA met?
· Which (of any) payments resulted from the VPA?
Referrals. · What referral sources did the payor contact?
Varying the Order. · Did the payor meet the time frame to vary the order?
Improved communication and cooperation with payor. · Did the Payment Conference result in improved communication and cooperation with the payor?
Default Hearing. · Was a Default Hearing avoided?

5.3.4 Demographic and Case Data

Twenty-one of twenty-three (21/23) payors were male, 2/23 were female. All payors appeared to be currently living in British Columbia.

Seven of twenty-five maintenance orders covered one child, 15 covered two children and three covered three children.

In 10/25 cases, no employment data was available; in 6/25 cases, the payor was self-employed, and in 7/25 cases, the payor was employed by a company or organization.

Two of the payors had multiple cases.

Five payors were enrolled in the FMEP as recently as 2000; 6/25 were enrolled prior to 1995.

Table 21 Date of FMEP Enrollment

Date of Enrollment Number of Payors
Pre 1995 6
1995 - 1996 6
1997 - 1998 6
1999 - 2000 7
TOTAL 25

5.3.5 Payment and Enforcement Data

The monthly payments required by this group of payors ranged from $50 to $1,685; the average monthly payment requirement was $377. Almost half of the cases (11/25) involved relatively small monthly payments (under $300 per month). Table 22 shows the range of payments required.

Table 22 Monthly Payment Requirements

Payments Required Per Month Number of Payors
Under $100 2
$100 - 299 9
$300 - 499 8
$500 - 699 3
$700 - 899 2
$900 + 1
TOTAL 25

Most cases (20/25) had three to four active enforcement mechanisms in place prior to the Payment Conference. Specific enforcement mechanisms are described in Table 23.

Table 23 Number and Type of Active Enforcement Mechanisms in Place Prior to the Payment Conference

Enforcement Mechanism Number of Payors (N = 25)
NOFI (Notice of Federal Interception of Funds) 25
NOA (Notice of Attachment) 9
CPA (Compulsory Payment Allotment-Military)  
Reg. Land (Registration Against Land) 1
NOFG (Notice of Federal Garnishment of Salaries) (GAPDA)  
Credit Bureau 22
Federal License Denial 7
Driver's License Withholding 21

None of the payors had been involved in a previous Default Hearing.

5.3.6 Level of Arrears and Payment Regularity

Total arrears ranged from $2,226 to $73,340. The average amount of arrears per payor was $25,353. Approximately half of the payors had an arrears total under $15,000; 5/25 payors had arrears totalling over $30,000.

Table 24 Amount of Arrears Owed by Payors

Amount of Arrears Number of Payors
$1 - 5,999 3
$6,000 - 9,999 3
$10,000 - 14,999 6
$15,000 - 19,999 5
$20,000 - 29,999 2
$30,000 - 39,999 2
$40,000 - 49,999 2
$50,000 + 1
Total 25 (note: totals 24)

5.3.7 History of Payments

The average amount of payments made by payors to the FMEP was $9,151. Only two payors in the study group had previously made no payments to the FMEP; two others had made very sporadic payments. The total value of these payments (per payor) was, in most cases, small—in the range of $1,000 - 4,999.

Table 25 Total Payments Made

Total Payments Made Number of Payors
No payments 2
$0 - 999 2
$1,000 - 4,999 11
$5,000 - 9,999 3
$10,000 - 14,999 2
$15,000 - 24,999 3
$25,000 - 49,999 1
$50,000 + 1
Total 25

In the 12 months prior to the Payment Conference approximately half of the payors (11/25) had made no payments; five had made some level of payments and nine had made more than seven payments. In the 14 cases where payments had been made, seven payors had made more than 12 payments. In eight cases where payments were made and data was available, seven were completely from attached sources; one was from a VPA.[3]

A review of the payment history of these cases reveals five distinctive patterns of payment.

  • Payors who had made no payments (2/25 payors);
  • Payors who had made very occasional payments (10/25);
  • Payors who had made somewhat regular payments but who had not made payments in full compliance with their maintenance orders (5/25);
  • Payors who had been paying sufficiently and regularly but who had stopped in response to a specific financial event (4/25);
  • Payors who had been irregular payors but who had made regular payments after the application of an enforcement mechanism (4/25).

5.3.8 Outcomes of the Payment Conference

5.3.8.1 Financial Information Provided

One of the objectives of the Payment Conference is to acquire new financial or asset information from the payor that may help in future enforcement of maintenance provisions. The payor is instructed to bring the following documents to the Payment Conference:

  • A copy of the three most recent income tax refunds;
  • Pay stubs;
  • A copy of statement of income from other sources;
  • Property assessment notice;
  • A copy of each credit card statement over the past 12 months.

Table 26 provides an overview of the financial and asset information provided at the Payment Conferences. It indicates that a partial or complete Statement of Finances or Income Tax was provided by 11/25 payors. In most cases, very little asset or personal financial information was provided. For example, a credit card statement was supplied in only 3/25 cases. No new business asset information was found in any of the cases.

Table 26 Financial or Asset Information Provided at the Payment Conference

Type of Financial Data Not Applicable Level of Information Provided
No
Information
Some Data Provided
(no complete data)
No Data / Unknown
Statement of Finances.   12 11 2
Business Statement. 2 21 1 1
Business Asset Information. 14 11    
Bank Statement.   21 3 1
Income Tax Statement. 1 12 11 1
Credit Card Statement.   22 3  
Payroll Information.   19 6  
Loan Documentation.   25    
5.3.8.2 Employment and Personal Asset Information Provided

In one case, new employment related information was provided; this was related to regular, not self-employment (name of employer).

No personal assets (such as RRSPs, vehicle or property ownership) were disclosed as a result of the Payment Conference.

5.3.8.3 Status of Payment Arrangement and Referral Outcomes

In 14/25 cases the Payment Conference established that the payor did not have the ability to pay.

Three intermediate outcomes were also assessed: the number of Voluntary or Interim Payment Arrangements made, the number of recommendations to vary the maintenance order and the number of referrals. These outcomes are summarized in Table 27.

Table 27 Intermediate Payment Related Outcomes of the Payment Conference

Outcomes Number of Cases
Payor lacks ability to pay. 14/25
Voluntary or Interim Payment Arrangement made. 5/25
Recommendation that payor vary maintenance order. 20/25
Referrals made. 21/25

A principle objective of the Payment Conferences is to establish a Voluntary or Interim Payment Arrangement, which is an agreement that the payor will pay a regular pre-established amount to reduce arrears. There were limited results in this area. A VPA was established in only 3/25 cases; in one other case, an Interim Payment Order was put in place until the process to vary the maintenance order was completed. In another case, an agreement in principle was made to turn over anticipated income tax return refunds to the FMEP to settle arrears.

In 20 cases, it was recommended that payors take steps to vary their maintenance orders. Time durations of from seven to 10 weeks were given to complete this process. These data suggest that 60 to 80 percent of the payors required to attend Payment Conferences are assessed as having legitimate issues that affect their ability to pay.

In most cases (21/25), referrals to other services or resources were an outcome of the Payment Conferences. The most frequent recommendation (20/21 cases) was to the Salvation Army Pro Bono Service, followed by referrals to Family Justice Counsellors (16/23). Ten payors were referred to Debtor Assistance.[4]

5.3.8.4 Payment Outcomes

Three of the five payors with specific payment agreements made payments in full or partial compliance with the agreement. The total amount of these payments was $15,300. Payments were tracked from immediately after the Payment Conference to the time of data compilation. This time period varied from three to 15 months. In one case, the payor made no payments, and in the fifth case, the payor was waiting for an income tax return refund in order to make payments.

In addition to payments arising from specific agreements, four additional payors with no agreements made lump sum payments to assist in the reduction of their debt. These additional voluntary payments totalled $5,799.

In total, 7/25 payors made payments as a result of the Payment Conferences, for a total of $21,099.

Table 28 describes the history of payments of all types in the tracking period after the Payment Conference. Over a third of all payors (9/25) made no payments (either regular or to reduce arrears) after the Payment Conference; nine made regular payments but did not reduce arrears and seven made some payments to reduce arrears.

Table 28 Post Conference Payments Made (All Types of Payments)

Payor Made No Payments

Payor Made Regular Maintenance Payments Only Payor Made Arrears Reduction Payments Only Payor Made Regular and Arrears Reduction Payments
9 9 4 3
5.3.8.5 Compliance with Agreement to Vary the Order

An agreement was made with 20/25 payors to begin the process of varying their maintenance order. At the time this research was completed only two of these processes had been completed. In 8/25 cases the process was still underway. However, in 50 percent of the cases (10/20) no action towards varying the order had been taken.

5.3.8.6 Default Hearings

Payment Conferences are one enforcement tool used to address the non-payment of arrears. If a Voluntary Payment Agreement or another acceptable outcome does not result from a Payment Conference a recommendation will likely be made that the case proceed to a Default Hearing.

At the time of this study, thirteen of the twenty-five cases had been recommended to proceed to a Default Hearing because of a lack of payments or progress on the varying of the order within the specified time frame. Only one Default Hearing had been completed. Evaluating the process of the Default Hearings was not part of this evaluation.

Table 29 Status of Default Hearings

Status Number
(N = 13)
Recommended but no action taken by the FMEP. 2
Default Hearing process underway. 10
Default Hearing completed. 1
5.3.8.7 Additional Payment Conference Outcomes

No follow-up data was available on whether referrals to resources such as the Salvation Army Pro Bono Service were contacted. Some data, however, was collected on whether the Payment Conference led to improved communication and cooperation between the FMEP and the payor. It is surmised that a more cooperative and regularized relationship could assist the FMEP in the collection of future payments.

In 17/25 cases, Payment Conferences appeared to lead to improved and more regular contact with payors. In 8/17 cases, this increased contact led to greater sharing of information that was relevant to the FMEP or to the payment of arrears. This included information about:

  • Payments made but not reported by the recipient;
  • Payor illness;
  • The impact of enforcement mechanisms on the ability to work and make payments.

However, in 6/17 cases, the increased regularity of contact and cooperative attitude of the payor did not translate into specific action or information related to payments. In three other cases, the outcome was unknown.

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