Child Support Services Policy

Published Date: September 18, 2015
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02 Goals, Principles, Authorities and Responsibilities

Program Authorities

Alberta Child Support Guidelines and Tables
Alberta Rules of Court Regulation
AISH Act
Child and Adult Support Services Regulation
Family Law Act
IESA
ISTHB Regulation
Provincial Court Procedures (Alberta Justice Social Enhancement Legal Team) Regulation
Support Agreement Regulation

INTENT

To ensure the administration and delivery of Child Support Services (CSS) follows legislative and policy authority.

Introduction

The Income and Employment Supports Act (IESA) Part 5 and the Child and Adult Support Services (CASS) Regulation provide the legislative authority for the administration of Child Support Services. The Family Law Act (FLA) provides general Alberta Justice Social Enhancement Legal Team authority for child and spousal/adult interdependent partner support action. The Child Support Worker (CSW) uses court forms adapted for Director authority and accepted under the Alberta Rules of Court Regulation and the Provincial Court Procedures (Alberta Justice Social Enhancement Legal Team) Regulation. The worker uses the support agreement prescribed under IESA.

Under IESA, the Director has authority to assist persons regardless of their marital status and the FLA enables all support actions to be heard either in the Court of Queen’s Bench or the Provincial Court. Child Support Services (CSS) matters are directed to the Court of Queen’s Bench.

The Director named in the IESA is the Director of Employment and Financial Program Policy. The Director delegates authority to CSS Regional Manager, CSS Supervisor, CSS Worker and Fraud Investigators as stated in the Delegation of Authority under the Income and Employment Supports Act and the Child and Adult Support Services Regulation.

CSS policy defines the authority the CSS and other delegated staff exercise under the legislation. Staff do not have the authority to contravene policy in the manual. The Director has authority to make exceptions to policy, but cannot make decisions contrary to the IESA, or the CASS Regulation.

The Director delegates authority to Fraud Investigation staff for locate activities as stated in the manual.

Legislative Authority

Applicants Receiving Assistance – IESA Authority
When a person is receiving assistance or has qualified to receive assistance, the Director has all the rights to support of the person or the person’s dependent child(ren). [IESA Section 29(3)] Eligibility for assistance is dependent upon the person’s willingness to co-operate with Child Support Services. [IESA Section 6(2)(d)] [IESA Section 6(3)(d)] [Income Support, Training and Health Benefits (ISTHB) Regulation, Section 82]

CSS provides services to persons receiving assistance. Assistance means income support benefits and health benefits issued under IESA and benefits issued under the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) Act. Mandatory services means the applicant must cooperate with the CSW to remain eligible for financial assistance.

Note
Although IESA Part 5
enables the CSW to initiate applications in the Director’s name, the worker files all documents in the applicant’s name using the approved court forms.

Under the authority in IESA Section 29, the CSW may undertake the following activities:

Agreements

Consent Orders

  • Assist an applicant and respondent to obtain a consent order for support, including arrears when a support agreement cannot be completed, e.g. varying an existing support order by consent

Applications

  • File a Claim in the applicant’s name to initiate a court application for a support order that includes a finding of parentage, and if applicable, arrears

  • When an applicant is pursuing their own support action, intervene in the application or court action. The CSW does not intervene in a divorce application, but can start an action under the FLA for child support pending the outcome of a divorce application.

  • Initiate or respond to an application for a variation of support for ongoing support

Enforcement

  • Provide information to department lawyers to assist the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) in defending Crown arrears

  • File a support order or agreement with MEP for enforcement

  • Withdraw a support order or agreement from filing with MEP when an applicant is receiving assistance and MEP enforcement will put the client at risk or it has been shown the Crown does not have a claim. E.g. the child was not with the applicant and an overpayment has been calculated.

    Note
    The Director has delegated the authority to the Director of Maintenance Enforcement to withdraw a support order or agreement from filing when the applicant is no longer in receipt of assistance and there is no money owing to the Crown.

  • If an applicant’s assistance file has closed before CSS action was finalized and the applicant had an existing child support order or agreement and had not claimed the support as income, file the support order or agreement with MEP and redirect arrears owing to the Crown.

Continuing Services

  • Complete actions started when an applicant was in receipt of assistance to obtain support when the applicant’s assistance file closes unless the applicant tells the Child Support Worker (CSW) to stop. The CSW notifies the applicant about any action that will be taken and obtains an acknowledgement from the applicant about legal services provided by government.

Term Orders

  • When support actions were commenced and the applicant’s assistance file closes, continue with the court action to obtain an order for support for the time the person was in receipt of assistance.

Other Authority

  • Advise MEP to direct support payments to the Crown for ongoing support and arrears when the respondent is not a regular payer or a history of payments to the applicant has not been established. [IESA Section 31]

Applicants Receiving Assistance – CASS Regulation Authority

Applicant Takes Action – No Consent Required
An applicant does not require worker consent for support actions where the Director has no mandate, e.g. initiating or responding to an application for divorce or an action about arrears owing to the applicant. [CASS Regulation Section 3(1)] However the Director may, at any time, exercise any authority under section 29(3) of the Act if government interests are not protected. [CASS Regulation Section 3(3)] Protecting government interests means the applicant is proceeding according to an agreed upon plan to obtain support, e.g. a divorce application is expected to be finalized in the near future.

Applicant Takes Action – Consent Required
When an applicant has started or wants to start action under the FLA, the worker reviews the applicant’s plan to obtain support to determine whether the applicant or the CSW should proceed. If the worker determines the applicant’s plan is appropriate, the worker gives consent.

The CSS Program has given consent for all CSS applicants to register in the Recalculation Program through Alberta Justice and no individual consent from a CSW is required for an applicant to register in this program.

CSW Gives Consent
A person who

  1. has taken steps referred to in section 29(3) of the Act and subsequently becomes in receipt of assistance, or
  2. is in receipt of assistance

may, on receipt of the consent of the Director and subject to any conditions imposed by the Director, continue with or initiate any of the steps referred to in section 29(3) of the Act. [CASS Regulation Section 3(2)]

This means the CSW can provide consent with applied conditions, such as time limits to complete an action, to allow the applicant to:

  • Continue with an ongoing support action, or
  • Undertake support actions

other than applications for divorce or actions for arrears owed to them when they were not receiving assistance, as CSW consent is not required for these actions.

CSW Does Not Give Consent
The CSW does not provide consent for an applicant to:

CSW Intervenes or Withdraws Consent
The Director may, at any time,

  1. exercise any authority under section 29(3) of the Act, or
  2. withdraw his or her consent [CASS Regulation Section 3(4)]

This means the CSW can withdraw from an agreement with the applicant that allows the applicant to:

  • Continue with an ongoing support action, or
  • Undertake support actions

other than applications for divorce or actions for arrears owed to them when they were not receiving assistance.

It also means when the CSW has provided consent for the applicant to continue with or initiate appropriate support actions, the CSW can take any other action under IESA Section 29(3) if this action is in the best interests of the government.

Intervening in a matter means the CSW can:

  • Respond to a Claim or Notice of Motion by the Respondent to vary an order, or

  • Initiate child support action under the FLA if a divorce application is not finalized in a timely manner, or

  • Become a party in an ongoing FLA support application when the action is not completed in a timely manner, or

  • Withdraw consent for the applicant’s FLA support actions and start a Director action if the applicant does not undertake or complete the agreed upon plan to obtain support.

Authority to Grant or Withdraw Consent or Intervene

Consent
The intent of the CSW giving consent to an applicant is to allow the applicant to start or continue with their own support actions when it is determined they may obtain results faster than the CSW and/or the applicant’s action may result in a long term best result for the child and family. It remains the Child Support Services (CSS) program’s mandate to obtain support, but there may be circumstances when the applicant is in a position to proceed in a more timely and appropriate manner and they have indicated a desire to start or continue with their own action.

Withdrawal of consent would only occur if the applicant does not meet their commitment to pursue support, e.g. has not retained a lawyer within an agreed upon time frame or is planning to enter into a support agreement that does not meet the Alberta Child Support Guidelines and Tables.

Withdrawing consent means the applicant cannot continue with their plan to obtain support and the CSW is prepared to undertake appropriate action to ensure support is obtained. The CSW would not advise an applicant they could not continue with their own support action unless the worker is prepared to take action on that file. As a legal right to support exists, the CSW does not stop the applicant from exercising this right unless the worker is taking action to exercise the Director’s right to support.

Consent means the CSW:

  • Is aware of the child support action, and
  • Agrees the applicant has a plan to obtain support, and
  • Will monitor the outcome of the action, and
  • Will withdraw consent and start Director action if the applicant does not undertake or complete the agreed upon plan to obtain support.

Intervening in an Application
The intent of intervening in a matter is to ensure the CSW can respond to or become involved in an ongoing matter to ensure government interests are protected.

New Support Orders
Intervention in a support application occurs when the applicant or respondent and/or their lawyer has initiated court action and the CSW is intervening in that action when government interests about obtaining timely child support orders are not being met.

Parenting Orders
The worker does not intervene when the applicant is in court on a parenting matter OR a parenting and support matter under the FLA. Under the FLA, Director applications cannot be combined with parenting applications.

Variation Orders
Intervention in a variation application means the CSW has reviewed the information in the respondent’s Affidavit or Notice of Motion and is requesting the department lawyer argue against a decrease in ongoing support. If both parenting and support are included in the variation application, the department lawyer will intervene only to argue for ongoing support.

Applicant Right to Continue Support Action
The intent of intervening in an action is not to stop an applicant and/or the applicant’s lawyer from proceeding with the applicant’s own action when the CSW has made a decision not to pursue action. The intent is not to apply to the court to have the applicant’s application withdrawn. Even when the CSW has made a decision not to pursue for support, the legal right to support continues to exist, and the applicant cannot be stopped from pursuing their own action.

If the CSS program decides not to pursue support because of risk associated with family violence issues or because the respondent has very limited income, the CSW does not stop an applicant from proceeding with their own action, if they choose to do so.

Applicants Not Receiving Assistance – IESA Authority

IESA Part 5 gives the Director the authority to provide CSS to other client groups not in receipt of assistance. Subject to eligibility requirements, CSS may offer services to other Albertans with low income under IESA Section 30.

These services include:

  • Assisting an applicant and respondent to enter into a prescribed support agreement, including arrears

  • Initiating court applications for support, including arrears

  • Accessing Alberta Justice Social Enhancement Legal Team lawyers or legal agents. In these situations, legal counsel is providing services to Child Support Services. Legal counsel follows the CSW directions and there is no lawyer-client privilege with the applicant.

Eligibility for Applicants Not Receiving Assistance

Applicants not receiving assistance must be assessed as having a suitable matter for CSS involvement and must meet income eligibility prior to receiving CSS.

Applicant Suitability and Eligibility

Applicants may receive CSS when:

  1. In the opinion of the Director after having completed an assessment of the information made available to the Director by the applicant, the Director considers that the provision of the service is appropriate, and

  2. The person has insufficient financial resources to enable the person to make an application for determination of paternity or support or both. [CASS Regulation Section 4(2)(a)]

This means that if a case is determined to be suitable, the applicant must meet income eligibility criteria before CSS services are provided.

Information on Closed CSS Files
If the Director

  1. has acted under section 29 of the Act with respect to a person receiving assistance, or

  2. has acted with respect to a person who was not in receipt of assistance but who has previously qualified for Child Support Services,

and the Director is no longer doing so, the Director may take such action under section 30 as is necessary for the efficient transfer of the control of that matter to that person or that person’s legal counsel, including the transfer of information that has been collected for the conduct of the matter. [CASS Regulation Section 4(3)]

This means an applicant who is no longer receiving CSS, or their lawyer may request and receive information collected by the CSW for the purpose of child support if this information will be used to obtain or enforce a support order or agreement.

Under this authority, the CSW also provides blank copies of the CSS 0045 Support Agreement PDF version to former CSS clients who wish to vary a previous Parentage and Maintenance Act (PMA) or IESA agreement obtained through CSS. The client accesses these documents by identifying themselves as former CSS clients at their nearest CSS office. The former client can make this request in person or by phone. The CSS staff confirms that the person is not currently receiving assistance. The document can be picked up at the CSS office or mailed to the person.

Note
A previous client who requests the transfer of information or a blank copy of the CSS 0045 Support Agreement is not required to meet the suitability criteria or income eligibility requirement.

CSW Activities
When the CSW is providing services to applicants who are receiving assistance, the worker may undertake any necessary activities to initiate or defend an application concerning the obtaining, variation or enforcement of a support order or agreement. [IESA Section 29(3)(i)]

When the CSW is providing services to applicants not in receipt of assistance, the worker may undertake any necessary activities to initiate an application for support. [IESA Section 30(1)(e)]

Any activity undertaken by the CSW is subject to the IESA and CASS Regulation, CSS policy and procedures and Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) requirements. [CASS Regulation Section 5] indicates the CSW may take but is not limited to specific identified steps or activities. These activities are undertaken when the CSW provides services to applicants whether or not they are in receipt of assistance. [IESA Section 29(3)(i) and Section 30(1)(e)]

Collection of Information
The Director may undertake investigations or otherwise make enquiries in order to

  1. determine the whereabouts of a person who is or may be responsible to pay support, or
  2. acquire information about a person who is or may be responsible to pay support that is necessary to obtain or enforce support orders or agreements

and during the course of the investigation or enquiries, disclose only such information as is necessary to identify the person who may be responsible for support. [CASS Regulation Section 5(1)(a)(i)(ii)]

This means the worker has authority to conduct locate activities and obtain information about the respondent, e.g. Social Insurance Number (SIN) or date of birth, in order to initiate support action or file the support order or agreement with MEP. Locate activities and other third party inquiries are made only if the applicant cannot provide the information and the information cannot be obtained directly from the respondent.

It means the CSW does not release any information about the specific reasons for requesting information about the respondent.

Disclosure of Information
The Director may give each party information that is necessary to take action under sections 29 and 30. [CASS Regulation Section 5(1)(b)]

This means the CSW provides appropriate disclosure to the applicant and the respondent or the respondent’s lawyer to ensure the support action can be completed. This includes financial disclosure that indicates the applicant is in receipt of assistance.

Referrals for DNA Testing
The Director may refer persons to specified DNA Testing Providers for the purpose of determining parentage. [CASS Regulation Section 5(1)(c)]

This means the CSW refers respondents and applicants to the DNA Testing Provider who has been approved by the department. The CSW tells the respondent the CSS program will not use any other DNA Testing Provider. If a respondent uses another provider, the CSW does not refer the applicant and child.

Court Appearances
The Director may, for the purposes of sections 29 and 30 of the Act, appear and make representations at court.

This means when making applications for support, the CSW has the authority under IESA to appear and make representations at court for applicants receiving assistance and applicants not in receipt of assistance. The Alberta Rules of Court Regulation and the Provincial Court Procedures (Alberta Justice Social Enhancement Legal Team) Regulation recognizes the Director under Part 5 as a party to a support action. Currently, department lawyers present matters in Court of Queen’s Bench.