Email this articleE-mail this story  Letter to the EDITORWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

Panel calls for child-support law

MLA calls it a step in the right direction

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 30/02) - Proposed legislation changes don't erode the rights of NWT residents seeking child support, says MLA Brendan Bell, chair of the standing committee on social programs.

NNSL Photo

Minister of Justice Roger Allen and lawyer Lucy Austin say the new support orders act improves the current process. - Jennifer McPhee/NNSL photo

Following a hearing on Wednesday the committee decided to recommend passing the legislation that changes the way people seek child support from ex-partners.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Bell. "Hopefully, this will expedite the process."

The legislation will eliminate one of the two court hearings when support is being sought from a spouse who lives in another jurisdiction.

Currently, there is a court hearing in the NWT where one parent -- the parent seeking support -- is present. Transcripts from this hearing are sent to the other jurisdiction for a court hearing with the other parent. Then an enforceable order is made.

The new process eliminates the first hearing. Instead, parents seeking support will fill out a sworn, comprehensive form.

The form is sent to the court in the other jurisdiction, where a hearing takes place and an order is made.

Bell said he received submissions indicating two main concerns with the proposed legislation.

The Canadian Bar Association NWT Branch was concerned there is no way for evidence in the forms to be tested, since the parent who sends the form can't be cross examined.

However, Department of Justice officials explained to the committee that the court can request additional information, if needed, from the NWT.

"The other concern raised suggests these changes will not allow moms to be heard in court," said Bell.

But in the current process, parents seeking support already don't attend the second hearing, said Bell. And he said replacing the first court hearing with a comprehensive form amounts to the same thing.

Lucy Austin, senior adviser for family law at the Department of Justice, said nothing prevents parents seeking support who have the resources from having a lawyer at the hearing in the other jurisdiction.

The legislation is based on model legislation developed by a committee of federal, provincial and territorial governments. Although not in force anywhere in Canada, all jurisdictions have introduced it excluding Quebec, Nunavut, Newfoundland and PEI.