Phase 2 of the Survey of Child Support Awards: Final Report



1.1 Background

On May 1, 1997, the Federal Child Support Guidelines came into effect with the amendments to the Divorce Act.[2] (The amendments to the Income Tax Act concerning the tax treatment of child support payments took effect on that same date.) The amendments to the Divorce Act required the Minister of Justice to review the operation of the Guidelines and report to Parliament before May 1, 2002. This report has been tabled in Parliament and is publicly available.[3] A program of research by the Department of Justice Canada has been undertaken to provide data to allow for a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the Guidelines.

The Federal-Provincial-Territorial Task Force on Implementation of the Child Support Reforms established a Research and Evaluation Subcommittee[4] to help develop the comprehensive program of socio-legal research required to support the review required by the 1997 Divorce Act amendments. Given the profound change in the way order amounts are calculated under the Guidelines, the Task Force and the Research Subcommittee members agreed that the first research priority was to collect information about support orders and variation orders made on or after May 1, 1997. This project is providing data on the implementation of the Guidelines, and allows for ongoing or periodic collection of information from the courts until the end of the research initiative in March 2004.

Phase 1 of this project began in December 1997 and ended in October 1998. This pilot phase consisted of three tasks. Task 1 was managing the initial phase of the data collection process. Task 2 was to manage and prepare data received from participating courts for input into a computerized database. Task 3 was to analyze the collected data. The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) was contracted to complete tasks 1 and 3. Phase 2 of this project involved implementing a revised survey instrument and began in the fall of 1998.

1.2 Study Approach

This report presents the results of the analysis of data collected from Phase 2 of the Child Support Award Monitoring Project, which commenced in the fall of 1998 and continued through November 2003. Data were collected at each participating site on all divorce cases involving children. Section 2.0 discusses the methods used to collect the data for Phase 2. A description of the cases on selected variables is presented in Section 3.0, and factors related to child support order amounts organized according to the sections of the Child Support Guidelines are discussed in Section 4.0. Section 5.0 presents the conclusions of the report. There is also a detailed data definition report (available upon request) that presents a discussion of each data element contained in the database for this study.