Supporting Families Experiencing Separation and Divorce Initiative Evaluation

4. Key Findings

4.3. Performance - Demonstration of Efficiency and Economy

The SFI has been administered economically, but the level of combined initiative Footnote 50 and non-initiative Footnote 51 salary and O&M resources was not sufficient to meet the demands placed on FLAS for systems upgrades. Both the PDU, which administers the SFF, and FLAS have been shown to have high levels of operational efficiency. Although the availability of outcome data that can readily be expressed in dollar terms is limited, both mediation and parent education services have shown benefits that exceed the federal contributions. The outcomes of FLAS activity for parents are very substantial when compared to the amount of federal net expenditures.

In accordance with the Treasury Board Secretariat's guidelines in the Directive on the Evaluation Function (2009) Footnote 52, an examination of resource utilization in the SFI was undertaken using analyses of economy, operational efficiency and allocative efficiency. It is difficult to quantify and analyze outputs and outcomes associated with the leadership role and the policy work achieved under the SFI. Therefore, the assessments of efficiency in this section focus instead on the key activities of investment and assistance that can be measured in more concrete terms. More specifically, they examine the use of resources in relation to the achievement of two main outcomes of the SFI "enhanced ability of parents to reach agreement on appropriate custody, access and support obligations" and "increased parental compliance with financial support obligations".

4.3.1. Analysis of Economy

An analysis of economy focuses on inputs and whether they are optimized (or minimized). Economy is achieved when the cost of the resources that are used approximates the minimum amount of resources needed to achieve the expected outcomes. In the context of the SFI, this analysis looks at the relation between planned and actual expenditures for each unit, and also at how resources have been used in each unit to achieve leadership, assistance and investment goals.

Analysis of planned to actual expenditures (SFI and non-initiative O&M) Footnote 53

Table 3 compares planned with actual expenditures of salary and O&M (initiative and non-initiative) resources in each of the first four years of the Initiative. The table shows that the overall actual salary and O&M expenditures have exceeded planned expenditures by $1,053,541, or 3.3%. Of this amount, $945,000 was for system upgrades to FLAS in 2009-10 and 2010-11, which were drawn from departmental reserves, un-expended dollars from other (non-SFI) programs in the Department. The remaining $108,541 ($1,053,541 – $945,000) was also drawn from reserves for on-going FLAS operations. This indicates that the salary and O&M (initiative and non-initiative) dollars were not sufficient to fully support all of the demands placed on FLAS between 2009 and 2013. The demand for its services is largely beyond its control, and depends on the economy, patterns of divorce and separation, compliance rates, and activity of MEPs in each jurisdiction.

Table 3. Planned to Actual Salary and O&M (Initiative and Non-initiative) Expenditures Budget


PlannedTable note 1

ActualTable note 1

(plus sign = actual more than planned;
minus sign = actual less than planned)




+623,708Table note 2




+325,483Table note 3









Total, 2009-2013




Table note 1

Figures are for all FCY salary and O&M (initiative and non-initiative) expenditures excluding corporate costs and salary and O&M related to Children's Law Family Violence Policy Unit which is evaluated separately.

Return to table note 1 referrer

Table note 2

Includes $620K for FLAS system upgrades that were funded through departmental reserves.

Return to table note 2 referrer

Table note 3

Includes $325K for FLAS system upgrades that were funded through departmental reserves.

Return to table note 3 referrer

Analysis of planned to actual expenditures, SFF grants & contributions budget

The SFF grants and contributions budget is comprised of three components. The first is the FJI, which funds family justice services and programs based on annual or multi-year proposals submitted by the provinces and territories. The federal contribution to these activities amounts to approximately 20% of the overall costs detailed in the proposals. The second component is the Pilot Projects, through which funding is provided to provinces and territories to develop, implement and evaluate innovative family justice services. The third is the PLEI and Professional Training component that supports NGOs to undertake PLEI and professional training projects.

The relationship of planned to actual expenditures of SFF funds is shown in Table 4. The PDU has allocated 100% of the SFF each year and expended funds almost 100% as planned. Data for allocations to FJI is complete for the first three years of the initiative. For many recent or multi-year PLEI and pilot projects final data is unavailable as final reports were not yet received at the time of analysis, so only expenditures for completed projects are shown below.

Table 4. Planned to Actual Expenditures of SFF Budget, 2009-12

SFF Component

Total SFF
PlannedTable note 1

Total SFF
ExpendedTable note 1

% of Planned Expenditure





PLEI (22 projects with final data)




Pilot (22 projects with final data)








Table note 1

Figures include only planned and expended amounts for the first three years of the SFF.

Return to table note 1 referrer

Analysis of work time spent on leadership, investment and assistance

An analysis of the time spent on the three SFI activity areas of leadership, investment and assistance as defined in Section 2.5.1 of this report was also conducted. The data was analyzed for the first four years of the SFI (2009-13). In the first analysis, the allocation of time staff spent on each of these areas (based on subjective estimates by the Coordinators of each of the FCY Units) was assessed in relation to the expenditures of these units to operate the SFI. These expenditures included salary and O&M (initiative and non-initiative) dollars, as well as draws from departmental reserves. In this analysis, the most resources (FCY salary and O&M expenditures) were spent on assistance activities (38% of overall expenditures), followed closely by leadership (35%), and then investment (27%). From an administrative perspective, the division of the three activities reflects the federal government's intention to play a leadership role in harmonizing family justice policies and services across the nation, and fostering communication between the provinces and territories.

The second analysis repeated the first one, but added expenditures of SFF dollars (all of which are in the investment activity category) to determine the overall allocation of salary, O&M and SFF funds for the same three activity categories of leadership, investment and assistance. When funds from both sources were included, investment in the development and enhancement of provincial and territorial services was shown to comprise 77.7% of SFI expenditures, assistance 11.5% and leadership 10.7%. This enlarged analysis showed that the overwhelming majority (almost 90%) of federal activity (investment and assistance combined) directly assists families through services, PLEI products, programs and enforcement services.

4.3.2. Analysis of Operational Efficiency

An analysis of operational efficiency examines the relationship between resources that are consumed and the outputs that result including how well inputs are being used and converted into outputs. The analysis is restricted to the SFF and selected activities of FLAS, as they are units in which the relationship between inputs and outputs can most readily be expressed in meaningful dollar terms. However, it is important to note that the multidisciplinary nature of FCY means that the work of the other units such as legal policy, research and communications also contributed to FLAS and PDU outcomes.

Supporting Families Fund

The total of salary and O&M funds actually expended by the PDU to operate the fund in the first four years of the initiative (2009-2013) was $1,731,341. SFF disbursements made by the fund in this period (including the FJI, PLEI and Pilot Projects components, with estimates for some projects in 2012-13) were $62,829,745.

Thus, for every federal dollar (salary and O&M) spent on administration, $36.29 of SFF dollars were dispersed for FJI, Pilot and PLEI projects ($62,829,745/$1,731,341 = $36.29).

The total amount expended to operate the SFF itself (salary and O&M) and to fund the projects in this period is $70,284,508. Thus administrative costs expressed as a percentage of total operating costs is:

(1,731,341 ÷ 70,284,508) x 100 = 2.5%

The administrative efficiency ratio (salary and O&M costs as a portion of grants and contribution dollars) awarded is:

1,731,341 ÷ 62,829,745 = $0.03

It is beyond the scope of this analysis to develop a systematic comparison with other grant and contribution programs. This would require analysis of such factors as the number and size of grants and contributions administered, the level of support and interaction required to effectively service the grantee and the degree of monitoring necessary (e.g. site visits) and support or indirect costs involved in delivering the comparison programs. Nonetheless, the administrative costs as a percentage of total operating costs are low, as is the resulting efficiency ratio.

In addition to having a low administrative efficiency ratio, the PDU consistently meets and exceeds the Justice Canada service standards Footnote 54 for the administration of the SFF 100% of the time. For example, between July 2010 and June 2011 Footnote 55, 89% of SFF proposals were acknowledged to have been received within one day Footnote 56 opposed to the seven day service standard. Written notification of the funding decision was then sent within 60 days Footnote 57 for 89% of the files which is half of the standard service time of 120 days. This further demonstrates the operational efficiency of the SFF.

Family Law Assistance Service

Justice Canada is responsible for three federal acts and their respective regulations which relate to the activities of FLAS: the Divorce Act, the FOAEAA and the GAPDA. FLAS has established three programs to administer these Acts.

  1. The FLAS CRDP Unit, established under the CRDP Regulations, maintains a nation-wide registry of divorce proceedings to help courts across Canada detect duplicate proceedings.
  2. The FOAEA Unit processes applications to:
    1. trace individuals in default of a family obligation;
    2. intercept federal payments that would otherwise go to individuals who are in default of their family support obligations; or
    3. suspend or deny certain federal licences and passports of individuals who are chronically behind in family support payments.
  3. The FLAS Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Registry for the National Capital Region (GAPDA NCR Registry) is used to validate applications for the garnishment of federal public servants' salaries and payments to federal contractors under Part I of the GAPDA within the National Capital Region.

The primary clients of these services are the provincial and territorial MEPs and the family courts.

Basis of description of FLAS costs

The analysis in this section is based on costs associated with the operations of FLAS as a whole, rather than only those specifically associated with SFI funding. This is primarily because there are no separately-categorized SFI outputs that form a distinct component of overall FLAS activity. However, two characterizations of the relative contribution of SFI funding can be made:

  1. An analysis by FLAS for the 2010-11 year showed that 82% of total direct salary and O&M program costs were derived from SFI funding.
  2. A summary of Salary and O&M budget allocations for FLAS over the first four years of the SFI (2009-2013) show that non-initiative salary and O&M, as well as actual funds drawn from departmental reserves have comprised 33% of FLAS funding, versus 67% that have come from the SFI. These figures are based primarily on direct program costs. They make clear that neither non-initiative funding nor SFI funding in and of themselves were sufficient to sustain the basic operation of FLAS.
Full program costs

Initiative and non-initiative salary and O&M allocations for FLAS for the first four years of the initiative (2009-13) show total expenditures of $8,222,277. This figure primarily reflects direct program costs to deliver FLAS activities (which include FOAEA, CRDP and the GAPDA NCR Registry), but also includes $945,000 that was drawn from departmental reserves for system upgrades.

A full accounting of program costs was prepared by FLAS for the year 2010-11 as part of a fee review exercise. Although it showed that direct costs were $2,589,595, when other program support costs Footnote 58 are also included, the total government cost was approximately doubled ($4,905,326).

Cost recovery

Two types of fees are charged to offset, to a certain extent, the federal government expenses that relate to FLAS activities:

Fees from these two sources in 2010-11 ($2,440,627 for FOAEA Part II, and $693,360 for CRDP) totalled $3,133,987. They thus exceeded the direct costs of operating the three programs of FLAS ($2,589,595), and represent 64% of the combined direct, support and indirect costs ($4,905,326) of operating FLAS. It should be emphasized that all recovered funds from the $38 administrative fee under FOAEA Part II and the $10 fee under the CRDP Fee Order are transferred into the federal Consolidated Revenue Fund and are not used to operate any of the programs. Nonetheless, on paper, the "net cost" to the federal government of operating these three government programs in 2010-11 can be considered to be $1,771,339 (i.e. $4,905,326 – $3,133,987).

An analysis of the impact of cost recovery in 2010-11 for FLAS' administration of FOAEA Part II show that the total costs (Justice Canada and other government departments) for FOAEA Part II in this period were $2,464,336, and the amount recovered from administration fees was $2,440,627. The ratio of administration fees collected to program costs was therefore $2,440,627/$ 2,464,336 = .99. This means that, for every dollar spent on FOAEA Part II activity, $0.99 was recovered in 2010-11 through the recovery of administrative fees. These fees do not directly support either FLAS or Justice Canada, but do become part of federal general revenue.

A comparable analysis of the impact of cost recovery for CRDP shows that for every dollar spent on CRDP activity, $0.88 was recovered. As with FOAEA fees, the CRDP fees do not directly support FLAS activity, as they become part of federal general revenue. Nonetheless, for the year 2010-11, it can be said that the fees paid for a substantial portion of the government's activity related to CRDP.

Initiatives to improve FLAS operational efficiency

In assessing operational efficiency, it is important to note a number of constraints on FLAS. FLAS is a government-wide system which is essentially reactive in nature. That is, FLAS has no control over the volume of applications or inputs, which rise steadily. It also operates in an environment in which overall efficiency is to a certain extent dependent on the capacity of provinces and territories to meet technical requirements which could make FLAS operations more efficient (e.g. through automated electronic exchange of information with provinces and territories rather than data entry). During the SFI, potential increases in operational efficiency of FLAS have also been constrained by the fact that the federal government has thus far not introduced legislative changes in relation to sections of FOAEAA that could impact processes positively. A further constraint is with regards to a rising demand for FLAS services without an increase in federal funds for its operations during the SFI.

In the context of these constraints, FLAS has focused throughout the SFI on systems' efficiency as its primary approach to operational efficiency. It has consistently made improvements and updated its systems. FLAS has negotiated and coordinated changes to electronic processes with MEP counterparts in the provinces and territories and other federal departments. It has also built on the capacity to move away from reliance on manual data entry by introducing the capacity for electronic capture of data through the introduction of a new online form and providing online access to the courts. Further, investments in an improved Interactive Automated Voice Response System have enhanced service to clients. Other activities which FLAS has focused on included electronic rather than manual processing of certain processes, the revision of business processes with federal partners and the introduction of a number of audit trail and quality assurance mechanisms to ensure greater data integrity and security.

4.3.3. Analysis of Allocative Efficiency

Allocative efficiency examines the relationship between resources consumed and outcomes achieved, that is whether the resources consumed were reasonable for the outcomes achieved in light of the activity's context, priorities and alternatives. Analyses were undertaken that focused on two areas of activity under the SFI: (1) the provision of two key family justice services, i.e. mediation and parent education programs, and (2) the garnisheeing of designated federal moneys (FOAEAA Part II). As with the analysis of operational efficiency, these areas were chosen because of the availability of data - in this analysis concerning outcomes - that can be expressed in dollar terms. There are limitations with the data which are identified in this section of the report. Also, it is important to note that the federal investment in mediation and parent education programs can result in more than one outcome that has potential savings for more than one group (i.e., parents, families, courts, governments). For the purpose of this evaluation, the analysis of allocative efficiency was restricted to the data that was available to assess the potential benefits of this investment.


This analysis used findings from a study by Leger Marketing in June 2008 of the Québec mediation program Footnote 60. This study determined that average costs incurred by individuals and their ex-spouses who received a judgment in Superior Court after having completed mediation were $1,794, versus $3,324 for those who did not use mediation, or a difference of $1,530 per respondent. It should be emphasized that this analysis was for Quebec; it is unknown how well it applies to other jurisdictions. However, as a preliminary analysis, when applied to cases in six other jurisdictions drawn from a review of SFF files, it was shown that individuals and their ex-spouses who participated in mediation versus litigation saved on average $1.60 for every $1 of federal contribution. This is only one of the potential benefits that can be calculated with regards to participation in mediation.

If comparable studies were undertaken in other jurisdictions, this ratio could be higher or lower, but the strength of the Quebec data suggests that the federal investment will usually result in savings for the individuals involved in mediation. This is a financial benefit that does not accrue to the federal government; however, it is nonetheless a tangible financial benefit to Canadians who access mediation that exceeds the value of the federal investment. In addition, it should be seen in combination with other more qualitative benefits of mediation as a process that is more likely than court litigation to meet the SFI's objectives of enhanced capacity of parents to reach appropriate custody, access and support agreements.

Parent education programs

As with mediation, a cost analysis was undertaken that relates to outcomes of federal investments in parent education programs through the FJI Footnote 61. It should be noted that although parent education programs have common features such as a focusing on the best interests of the child and encouraging of reduced conflict through parental communication, they are offered in different ways in different jurisdictions (e.g. mandatory versus voluntary, in-person versus distance training, length of sessions, and number of participants). Cost data was not sufficient to permit a differential analysis that would take into account these variations.

Analyses of savings for parent education program participants

This analysis used feedback from a national survey of parents Footnote 62 who had participated in both a parent education program and a mediation program, and who indicated that they were influenced by the parent education program to pursue their case by mediation rather than by court. By again applying the savings figure from the Leger Marketing study to a data set involving nine provinces and territories, determining the number of cases and the overall federal contributions involved, it was determined that every $1 of federal contribution has helped the individual and ex-spouse save $0.71 because of its impact on their decision to pursue mediation. This financial benefit can be considered a significant amount in relation to the federal investment and once again is only one indication of the potential savings.

Summary of mediation and parent education program cost savings

These analyses have used data which permit quantification of cost savings to individuals. There are other potential benefits of mediation which are either less readily quantified (e.g. reduction in stress, improved emotional well-being of the child, improved communication between parents) or where analyses have not been undertaken in the jurisdictions (e.g. pertaining to work time losses, loss of jobs). Nonetheless, these two analyses have shown that every $1 of federal contribution results in cost-savings to ex-spouses of $1.60 and for every $1 of federal contribution to parent education programs results in a cost saving to parents of $0.71. As with mediation, there are other potential benefits that were not included in this analysis.

Garnisheeing of designated federal moneys

Part II of FOAEAA allows for the garnishment of designated federal moneys payable to individuals who owe family support. This analysis compared the expenditures and revenues related to this activity with the amount of dollars garnisheed. It used data only for 2010-11, as it was only in that year that a breakdown of FOAEA Part II costs was available. The amount garnisheed in 2010-11 as a result of FOAEA Part II was $163,622,692, while the net costs to the federal government after collection of administration fees was $23,709. In other words, for every net dollar spent by the federal government on FOAEA Part II activity, $6,901.29 ($163,622,692/$23,709) is collected to satisfy family support. The garnisheed amounts are distributed to the courts and/or the MEPs in the provinces and territories for the benefit of the parent who is owed family support (or in some cases, to reimburse provincial social assistance departments to whom the support debt has been assigned). Thus, although this amount does not return as a direct benefit to the federal government, it directly benefits Canadian families.

4.3.4. Future Analyses of Efficiency and Economy

The challenges in undertaking the resource utilization analysis and limitations of the data have been described at various points in the analyses presented here. Insofar as analyses of resource utilization will be required in the evaluation of any future initiatives, it is important that a base be laid early in the initiative that will make more systematic analyses feasible.