Published Date: April 16, 2010
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Family Law Act
To enable Child Support Services (CSS) to make case management decisions when respondents have special circumstances.
Respondent Lives Outside CSS Office Boundaries
If the respondent lives outside the CSS office boundaries, but within Alberta, the worker contacts the respondent by phone or letter. When contact is made, the CSW discusses the matter of support with a finding of parentage.
If the respondent lives outside of Alberta, the CSW attempts contact by letter or by phone. The worker:
- Contacts the respondent, whether or not the individual lives in a reciprocal jurisdiction
- Informs the respondent the department is seeking a support agreement on behalf of their dependants
- If the respondent is cooperative, requests the respondent send all necessary financial documentation by mail or fax
- Prepares the case for an ISO court action if an agreement cannot be negotiated and the respondent lives in a reciprocal jurisdiction
Respondent is a Student
When a respondent receives Student Finance funding, the CSW determines if the funding is a grant or loan. Support is not pursued when the respondent is receiving grant funds unless the respondent has other income, e.g. part-time employment. When support is not pursued, the worker obtains an EMP 437 Statement of Parentage.
Respondent Disputes Parenting Arrangements
Some respondents advise the CSW that they have full parenting time or shared/split parenting time of the child(ren) involved in a support application.
Prior to entering into any formal support arrangement, the CSW:
- Determines if there is a formal parenting or separation agreement or Divorce Order which specifies the parenting time of the respondent, and obtains a copy
- Discusses the current arrangement with the applicant to determine if there has been a recent change in parenting time
- Makes a referral to appropriate community resources such as Legal Aid for the parenting time to be formalized
If the applicant and respondent agree on shared/split parenting time, the CSW advises the financial worker if applicable and negotiates child support based on this arrangement. If the respondent is found to have full parenting time of the dependants, the CSW notifies the financial worker and the CSS file is closed.
Respondent is Standing in the Place of a Parent
Although there is a greater legal obligation for a biological parent to pay child support, under the FLA a person can be determined to be standing in the place of a parent and have an obligation to pay child support the same as a biological parent. [FLA Section 47, 48, 49(3), 50, and 51(5)]
The CSW refers to the following critical factors to determine if a person is standing in the place of a parent (usually referred to as a step-parent):
- The person had a relationship of interdependence with one of the child’s biological parents, and
- The relationship between the person and the child was long in proportion to the child’s age, and
- There is substantiated evidence that the person clearly acted as a parent figure to the child, and
- The child has had little or no relationship with the other biological parent
Guidelines for Pursuing Support
There is no legal obligation for CSS to pursue both a biological parent and the step-parent, and CSS policy does not promote pursuing both respondents.
If extraordinary case circumstances appear to support pursuing both respondents, the CSW consults with their supervisor to determine a case management plan. If a decision is made to pursue support, the worker discusses the evidence with their department lawyer before pursuing either or both respondents.
A biological parent has an obligation to pay for their child(ren) even if there is no relationship with the child. However, when a step-parent also has an obligation to pay support, the following guidelines assist the worker to make a choice about whether the biological parent or step-parent will be pursued.
When making the decision to pursue support, the CSW considers the best interests of the child and family when determining whether to pursue the biological parent or the step-parent.
The biological parent is always pursued unless:
- At the time of CSS action, there has been no contact between the biological parent and the child for a significant period of time in the child’s life, and
- There is a person who has been standing in the place of a parent.
The CSW refers to the following guidelines to determine a step-parent obligation and if support can be pursued:
- The critical factors listed above about the step-parent’s relationship with the child are met, and
- The period of relationship with the child is at least the latter one third of the child’s age, and
- The applicant indicates the child has had no contact with their biological parent for a significant period of time and there is no child/parent relationship, or
- The biological parent was pursued but cannot be located or served for court or has been determined to have no ability to pay. The CSW must substantiate they have not been able to obtain support from the biological parent.
The worker considers the best interests of the family and child when deciding whether or not to pursue a step-parent. A worker may decide not to pursue a step-parent even though an obligation by the step-parent exists. When a step-parent is not pursued, the worker pursues support from the biological parent.
Amount of Support
Although workers use the Alberta Child Support Guidelines and Tables as a basis for their discussions with the respondents, they should be prepared to negotiate as the courts have discretion on how much child support to award against a step-parent. [Alberta Child Support Guidelines Section 5]
Before any discussions with the minor’s parent(s)/guardian(s), the CSW obtains the minor respondent’s consent.
To ensure all minor’s rights are protected, the CSW does not complete an EMP 45 Support Agreement or an EMP 437 Statement of Parentage with a minor respondent.
When the respondent is under 18 years of age, the CSW:
- Advises the respondent of the right to counsel, and
- Initiates court action to obtain an order, requiring the minor respondent to attend court.
When the respondent has no ability to pay, a support order may be obtained for a finding of parentage with the support adjourned sine die.
As the RP is available to recalculate child support agreements/orders, a further assessment is completed by the CSW on all respondents prior to the file being closed as no ability to pay.
The CSW assesses whether the case fits conditions to obtain a support order with no or very limited dollars.
Once it is determined the respondent has potential, the CSW proceeds by obtaining a child support order with no or very limited dollars.