Report of the Follow-Up Committee on the Quebec Model for the Determination of Child Support Payments

July 2004

March 22, 2000

Linda Goupil
Minister of Justice,
Attorney General, Minister responsible
for the status of women and for the application of
professional laws
1200 route de l’Église, 9th Floor
Sainte-Foy, Quebec
G1V 4M1

Dear Madam Minister:

On behalf of the members of the Follow-Up Committee on the Quebec Model for the Determination of Child Support Payments, I am delighted to submit this report detailing our proceedings and recommendations.

From the outset, Committee members agreed to operate on the basis of consensus. Thus I would hasten to inform you that the recommendations submitted here have, for all intents and purposes, received unanimous approval. With respect to recommendations around which no such consensus was reached, Committee members unanimously agreed upon the studies to be undertaken or the consultation process to be initiated.

The word “family” has a wide range of definitions; it includes social, religious, economic and legal concepts that are interpreted differently by different people, depending on the concept in question, one’s age and gender, and, as regards our study, the general situation of the family’s child members. The social consensus around legal guidelines and the ensuing economic consequences change over time.

I myself have witnessed such changes, having been a member since 1986 of all the Barreau du Québec Committees that have reviewed, analyzed, commented upon and made recommendations about the body of legislation affecting the family, its components and its economic and fiscal elements, as well as the exercising of familial rights. Since you yourself sat, as a family law expert, on the Barreau du Québec’s Comité de la famille, focussing in particular on the legislation that concerns us here, as well as on many other legal issues, you are well aware of the scope and depth of the deliberations.

A similar approach has characterized each meeting of the follow-up Committee, due to the judicious choice of organizations that were invited to participate in the process and to the highly able representatives actually delegated by these agencies to attend. The same holds true for the representatives of the various government departments; in their role as support organizations, they never failed to provide precise and relevant information, all of which was necessary for our understanding of the model and for determining the feasibility of the proposals under variation.

The follow-up Committee well deserves its name, for it has indeed monitored successive changes to the new Quebec model for the determination of child support payments since it came into force on May 1, 1997. The Committee reviewed a wide variety of matters in the course of its deliberations, including studies of case law, surveys involving practitioners in the field (lawyers, mediators, special clerks and judges) and voluminous records of court cases dating from September 1, 1997, to December 31, 1998.

The first conclusion we have drawn from our deliberations is that with its new method of determining child support payments, Quebec has reached the objectives set in the original legislation. In my view, this success is due, in large measure, to the fact that sufficient time was devoted to examining the overall situation (the Quebec government began its work in 1989) and to the consultation process that the government carried out during this period, before it enacted legislation of such vital importance.

No model can solve all problems, especially when it is designed for such a vast target group, namely all those undergoing a separation or divorce. Nonetheless, the Quebec method can be applied successfully, with all the necessary rigour, to the situations that arise most frequently, and it still leaves sufficient latitude for the requisite adjustments to be made in exceptional circumstances, with judicial discretion once again providing the most effective means of handling these special cases.

Since any system should be open to improvement, the Committee has formulated certain recommendations that seem necessary to us and that require your immediate, and sometimes urgent, attention.

We would suggest that changes of a technical nature be made as quickly as possible. You may judge that other proposed changes should be subject to further study. Given the tight deadline that it faced in tabling its report, the Committee was unable to variation and analyze all subjects as fully as possible; in such instances, it has recommended that additional studies and consultations be carried out. These issues, such as whether priority should be given to support obligations arising from other unions, give rise to opinions which, while not necessarily conflicting, are at times expressed clearly and precisely in the on-going debates.

The Committee has therefore highlighted the various opinions expressed, based on the firm conviction that the Quebec model can be improved if such views are in fact more fully analyzed. Particularly at issue here are subjects about which the Committee was unable to come to a consensus.

We would also like to underline the excellent work and professionalism of Pierre Tanguay from the Ministère de la Justice, as well as every single member of his team. Because of their commitment, devotion and consistent good humour, the work of the Committee, as well as its proceedings, unfolded in a smooth and effective manner.

I am well aware of your commitment to the family, so I am convinced that after reading our report you will hasten to make the necessary improvements to the Quebec model for the determination of child support payments. In so doing, you will help bring positive change to a system whose overall objective is to make it easier to settle family conflicts, in which the interests of the children, who are often silent witnesses to the conflict, are given the highest priority in our legislation. By promoting such changes, you will make Committee members all the more proud to have participated, so enthusiastically and with so much devotion, in the complex process of deciding just how to improve the Quebec model for the determination of child support payments.

Yours sincerely,

Jean-Marie Fortin, M. Fisc.
Chair of the Follow-Up Committee
on the Quebec Model for the
Determination of Child Support Payments

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