Family Justice Services Western
Final Evaluation

2004-FCY-8E

APPENDIX 1: RECALCULATION OF SUPPORT ORDERS SURVEY REPORT

Family Justice Services Western
Recalculation Results

Introduction

This document reports on the survey conducted with a portion of the parties who were involved in recalculation since June 2002. According to the FJSW staff, as of the end of January 2003, administrative recalculation had been conducted in a total of 130 cases. The consultants received the names of 240 of the clients involved. Thus out of 240 parties, this survey included 72 persons, or 30% of all impacted clients.

The survey took place in March 2003, by telephone. Contact information for the cases was forwarded to the consultants. The table below illustrates the status of cases surveyed.

Total number of contacts provided 240
No telephone number 26
Wrong telephone number / not at this number / moved 35
Unable to reach after repeated attempts or in the timeframe 100
Refused 4
Not recalculated 3
Interview completed 72

Demographics

Gender

The survey sample contains more females than males. While a more equal number of male and female participants would have been preferable, an analysis of the findings showed no significant differences based upon gender.

Response Frequency Percent
Male 27 37.5%
Female 45 62,5%
Total 72 100%

Age

The age distribution suggests the survey sample is concentrated in the 30-40 year range, with declining participation as one moves either younger or older from that range.

Response Frequency Percent
25 and under 6 9%
26-30 12 17%
31-35 17 25%
36-40 17 25%
41-45 11 16%
Over 45 6 9%
Total 69 100%

Community Area

Most participants in the survey resided in the Western Region where the order allowing for recalculation was made. It is not clear whether the percentage who resided in other regions / areas since the time of the order represent respondents already moved to other areas.

Response Frequency Percent
Western 63 87.5%
Central 2 3%
Avalon 4 5.5%
Labrador 1 1%
Other 2 3%
Total 72 100%

Status and profile of survey participant as payor / recipient of child support

As the tables below indicate, the sample contains more recipients of child support than payors. However, some 10% of the participants neither pay nor receive. These appear to represent situations where circumstances mean there is no support being paid at this time (e.g. in arrears, custodial situation changed, children no longer dependent). About 75% of the situations involved payment of support each month.

Do you currently pay child support?

Response Frequency Percent
Yes 28 40%
No 42 60%
Total 70 100%

Do you currently receive child support?

Response Frequency Percent
Yes 37 52%
No 34 48%
Total 71 100%

Agreement or decided through court?

Response Frequency Percent
Agreement 10 22%
Court decided 36 78%
Total 46 100%

In how many of the past 12 months have you paid / received child support?

Response Frequency Percent
2 months 1 2%
3 months 1 2%
4 months 2 3%
5 months 3 5%
6 months 1 2%
7 months 2 3%
8 months 1 2%
9 months 3 5%
10 months 2 3%
12 months 44 73%
Don't know 5 8%
Total 65 100%

Recalculation

Although in all but nine of the cases to date the recalcuation administrative activities were undertaken in the summer of 2002, the actual court orders, or at least the survey participants' perception of them, occurred several months afterward.

The survey findings suggest that at least 2/3 of the parties interviewed believed their recalculation was based upon Revenue Canada information. This is clearly not representative of the actual numbers in the larger sample, where less than 50% provided tax information. This finding likely suggests reluctance on the part of payors to acknowledge they did not supply Revenue Canada information as ordered and / or a mistaken belief on the part of recipients that the payor provided this information.

In almost 50% of the cases, recalculation resulted in an increase in the monthly child support amount. Twenty-five (25%) of cases were reduced. Only 16% of cases stayed the same (10% reported not knowing whether it had increased or not).

In almost half of the cases involving changes to support payments, the amount per month was $25 or less (44%). About 72% of all support payment changes were of $100 / month or less. Objections were filed in 10% of the cases involving the survey participants, with a range of outcomes.

When was your order recalculated?

Response Frequency Percent
Date (below) 53 76%
Don't know 17 24%
Total 70 100%

Date order was recalculated for those stating a date:

Response Frequency Percent
June 2002 12 23%
July 2002 6 12%
August 2002 2 4%
September 2002 5 10%
October 2002 3 6%
November 2002 2 4%
December 2002 5 10%
January 2003 4 8%
February 2003 2 4%
Other 10 20%
Total 51 100%

What was your recalculation based on?

Response Frequency Percent
Revenue Canada information 46 67%
Customer Price Index 4 6%
Don't know 19 27%
Total 69 100%

What was the outcome of recalculation in terms of the amount of support to be paid? Did it...

Response Frequency Percent
Stay the same 11 16%
Increase 34 50%
Decrease 17 25%
Don't know 7 10%
Total 69 100%

By how much per month did the amount of support increase/decrease?

Response Frequency Percent
Less than $25 22 44%
$25 - $50 8 16%
$51 - $100 8 16%
$101 - $200 8 16%
More than $200 4 8%
Total 50 100%

Have you/your ex filed an objection concerning the recalculated amount?

Response Frequency Percent
Yes 7 10%
No 56 81%
Don't know 6 9%
Total 69 100%

If yes, did this change the outcome?

Response Frequency Percent
Yes 2 29%
No 2 29%
To early to tell - process not complete 3 43%
Total 7 100%

Opinions about Recalculation

For most survey participants, the amount of support determined in recalculation was what they expected, with less than 20% saying it was not what they expected. Seventy-one percent (71%) of survey respondents were satisfied with the outcome of recalculation, with 16% reporting not being satisfied. A key factor for some of the recipients not being satisfied was that they were on social assistance and so they did not see any direct benefit to increased payments, as support payments reduce social assistance on a dollar to dollar basis.

A significant majority (88%) of those surveyed did not believe recalculation had any impact on their relationship with the other party, with about 7% indicating it did have a negative impact.

A high percentage of survey participants (85%) felt the process was fair, with 10% indicating it was not fair. Of those who did not believe it was fair, at least some of the reasons given were not directly about recalculation, but related to other issues (e.g. the payor's willingness to pay, the lack of direct benefit to a recipient on social assistance). For those who had used court processes to vary child support in the past, most felt recalculation was a better approach.

Was the amount of support as determined by recalculation what you expected?

Response Frequency Percent
Yes 40 58%
No 13 19%
Don't know 16 23%
Total 69 100%

Are you satisfied with the outcome of recalculation?

Response Frequency Percent
Yes 49 71%
No 11 16%
Don't know 9 13%
Total 69 100%

Why / Why not?

Response Yes, satisfied No, not satisfied
Amount too low 3 30%
No benefit—on Social Assistance (SA) 1 10%
Not fair—he isn't paying for special expenses 1 10%
It increased my payment 1 10%
Was paid too much, then they took it back 1 10%
Other 24 53% 3 30%
Based on income 8 18%
Easier and easier than court 4 9%
Doesn't matter—on Income support / SA 4 9%
Satisfied because it increased or stayed the same 5 11%
Total 45 100% 10 100%

Has the outcome of recalculation had any impact on your relationship with the person you pay support to/receive support from?

Response Frequency Percent
Yes 5 7%
No 60 88%
Don't know 3 4%
Total 68 100%

What type of impact did it have?

Response Frequency Percent
Affected negatively, anger at having to pay more money 1 20%
No change 1 20%
The payor thinks the money from child support, family allowance and social assistance is benefiting me 1 20%
He doesn't pay consistently 1 20%
Harder, it put a strain on it 1 20%
Total 5 100%

Do you feel administrative recalculation is a fair means of determining child support to be paid?

Response Frequency Percent
Yes 60 86%
No 7 10%
Don't know 3 4%
Total 70 100%

Why do you think it is fair?

Response Frequency Percent
Don't have to go back to court / convenient 13 24.5%
Based on income 9 17%
Fair process 9 17%
Don't mind paying 4 7.5%
Don't have to fight / deal with ex 2 4%
Other 16 30%
Total 53 100%

Why don't you think it is fair?

Response Frequency Percent
Need to look at additional costs of raising a child—e.g. child care 1 17%
Wasn't done correctly—waste of time 1 17%
Based on income—he is on income support so now pays nothing 1 17%
Other 3 50%
Total 6 100%

Have you ever been involved in a court procedure for a variation in support amounts paid by you/to you?

Response Frequency Percent
Yes 15 22%
No 50 73,5%
Don't know 3 4%
Total 68 100%

How does your experience with recalculation compare with your court experience in having your amount recalculated?

Response Frequency Percent
Recalculation better 8 53%
Legal process better 2 13%
Don't know 5 33%
Total 15 100%

Why do you feel this way?

Response Recalculation better Legal process better
Legal process best right now but neither are perfect 1 50%
Recalculation reduced his payment but he is still paying same amount because nobody seems to know its changed and/or he hasn't challenged it 1 50%
Easier / No court 7 87.5%
I can afford it now 1 12.5%
Total 8 100% 2 100%

Other comments

Response Frequency Percent
Recalculation better—no court, easier, faster 27 54%
Recalculation and legal process about the same 2 4%
FJSW excellent 2 4%
Other 19 38%
Total 50 100%

Analysis

The survey provides a general endorsement of the administrative recalculation approach used by Family Justice Services Western. Most participants found the process fair, were satisfied with the outcome and reported no adverse impacts on their relationship with the other party as a result of recalculation.

The survey demonstrates the importance to clients of alternatives to appearing in court over variations in child support and their general willingness to accept outcomes of administrative recalculation. As this was the initial implementation of recalculation, one might have expected more confusion perhaps resulting in low satisfaction levels. This clearly was not the case, and the general sense from interviewers was that the process was seen as fair and as better than having to appear in court. The findings are encouraging in terms of the willingness of payors and recipients to accept annual changes in support, which are calculated using the Child Support Guidelines.

In a small percentage of cases, participants had a negative experience with recalculation and these need to be examined closely. Some issues to be addressed include:

  • Recipients on social assistance—provincial policy dictates that for persons on social assistance every dollar received in child support results in a dollar deduction from social assistance. Thus, in order for a parent and their dependent children to benefit financially from an upward amendment to payments, they must come off social assistance. This is an issue for all custodial parents on social assistance and has been discussed in previous evaluations (i.e. SASW, 2000). In terms of recalculation, each year an adjustment will be considered, and if an upward amount is ordered, it is the state, not the children involved, who will receive more money.
  • Cases of special circumstances—administrative recalculation opens up the possibility of a need to review special circumstances each year, when in some instances those circumstances will not change (e.g. permanent disability). Also, in one instance, a person had voluntarily been paying above the required CSG amount and when recalculated this amount was decreased.
  • The survey indicates that for some percentage of cases (in this instance about 25%) support will not be paid each month of the year, owing to a variety of circumstances—this situation will need to be remembered in assessing reactions to recalculation, even though irregular payment patterns are distinct from that process.


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