The Survey of Child Support Awards: Preliminary Analysis of Phase 2 Data (October 1998--May 1999)by Lorne D. Bertrand, Joseph P. Hornick and Nicholas M.C. Bala (CSR 2000- 2E/2F)
Purpose of the Study:
The Survey of Child Support Awards was established to monitor how the Federal Child Support Guidelines are being implemented in selected court sites across Canada. This is the second report on the development and implementation of the survey1. This research is part of the comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of the Federal Child Support Guidelines that will be provided to Parliament by May 1, 2002.
After a year of development and pilot testing, the Survey of Child Support Awards (Phase 2) was launched in autumn 1998. In collaboration with the provinces and territories, information on child support orders and variation orders made under the Divorce Act is collected from at least one court site in each jurisdiction except Nunavut and Quebec.2 The report describes the similarities and differences in provincial and territorial procedures in handling child support under the Divorce Act to help put the data collected in context.
The survey will continue at least until the end of March 2001. Two further updates will be published over the next year.
A total of 5,864 cases were analyzed for this report. Most cases were settled by consent or were uncontested (84.6 percent). Less than 15 percent of cases (14.9) were reported as being contested.
In just over 80 percent of cases (80.6) the mother had sole custody, while the father had sole custody in 8.4 percent of cases.
Shared custody, where the child spends at least 40 percent of the time with each parent, was reported in 5.2 percent of cases.
Split custody, where each parent has custody of one or more of their children, was reported in 4.8 percent of cases.
Most awards were the same as the amounts in the Federal Child Support Tables (59.4 percent), or greater (34.2 percent). Only 6.4 percent of cases reported award amounts less than the table amounts.
Special or extraordinary expenses (Section 7) were awarded in 31.2 percent of cases, most frequently for child or day care expenses (11.6 percent of all cases); for medical or dental insurance premiums (11.1 percent of cases) or for health-related expenses (10.3 percent of cases).
There were 1,077 cases involving applications to vary child support amounts in the database (18.36 percent of cases). About 6 percent were cross-applications. The receiving parent was the applicant in just over 48 percent of the cases, and the paying parent was the applicant in 45 percent of the cases.
Of applications brought by the receiving parent, 53 percent resulted in an increase of the face value amount; 24.8 percent resulted in a decrease; and 2 percent resulted in a termination order or were denied.
Of applications brought by the paying parent, 8.9 percent resulted in an increase in the face value amount; 63.6 percent resulted in a decrease of the face value amount and 15 percent resulted a termination order or were denied.
Over 40 percent of variation applications resulted in a decrease. However, changes to the tax treatment of child support mean that a decrease in the face value amount does not necessarily result in a decrease in child support to the receiving parent, depending on the receiving parent's income. However, since paying parents can no longer claim child support as a tax deduction, an increase in the face value amount always means that the paying parent pays more child support and that the receiving parent receives more support.
The ongoing Survey of Child Support Awards provides an essential source of case-based (empirical) information on how parents and the courts are dealing with child support matters under the Federal Child Support Guidelines.
Coordinator, Research Unit
Child Support Team
August 25, 2000
1 Hornick, Joseph P., Lorne D. Bertrand and Nicholas M.C. Bala. 1999. The Survey of Child Support Awards: Final Analysis of Pilot Data and Recommendations for Continued Data Collection. Ottawa: Department of Justice, Child Support Team (CSR-1999-2E/2F).