Improving public legal education

  • November 29, 2021

In family law matters, the interests of the children should always come first. That’s why when Justice Canada asked for suggestions on how to improve public legal education and information, otherwise known as PLEI, the Family Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association limited itself to recommendations related to child support payments.

“In our view,” the Section says in its letter, “information relating to child support should be prioritized given its direct impact on children. The proper quantification of child support is a key factor in reducing the risk of child poverty.” And, it adds, given that spousal support is calculated in a similar manner, anyone can use the information related to child support to get a better sense of how to determine spousal support.

The Section recommends additional PLEI designed to help Canadians better understand income disclosure for the purposes of calculating child support payments.

First, use plain language to define common terms such as notice of assessment or child support guidelines, among others. The guidelines’ objectives should also be clearly explained, as well as the consequences for failure to provide complete income disclosure. As well, clear information should be provided so Canadians understand the need for ongoing income disclosure and how to provide it effectively.

Information should be added to better understand the calculation of child support payments. The CBA Section believes Justice Canada should emphasize plain language when explaining issues such as why line 15000 of a parent’s income tax return is not always sufficient, as well as terms like deductions and add-backs. In addition, links to every provincial enforcement agency should be provided.

And finally, Justice Canada may consider using some of the ideas contained in other sources, including the CBA’s Family Law Tax Toolkit.