News Releases

News Release - Manitoba

January 2, 2020

FAMILY LAW IMPROVEMENTS HELPING MANITOBANS REDUCE CONFLICT, SAVE MONEY

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Manitoba will Continue to Implement Better Tools for Families Going through Separation and Divorce: Cullen

The Manitoba government is continuing to make improvements to family law, with the goal of reducing conflict, cost and the effect of separation and divorce on children, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen announced today, noting changes to how child and spousal support are handled will save families an estimated $15 million annually.

“Modernizing and streamlining the family law system is a massive undertaking,” said Cullen.  “Together, we are working toward an improved system for all Manitoba families, while ensuring that the needs of children affected by divorce and separation remain our top priority.  We can do this by helping families access less adversarial and less costly supports sooner, and by giving them comprehensive resources to make informed decisions.”

Every year, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 families in Manitoba are affected by separation or divorce.

Changes to the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) came into effect in July 2019, allowing its staff to make more decisions and gather additional information related to child and spousal support without requiring a court order.  As a result, MEP will be able to review and adjust about 3,000 matters every year outside of the court system.  This is expected to save families an estimated $15 million annually in court and legal fees, the minister said.   

The Manitoba government has also made changes to allow decisions made by independent family arbitrators to be enforced in the same way as court orders, as of July 2019.  The arbitrator is chosen by family members involved to make decisions in a simpler, less formal process than if they were to go to court.  Arbitration decisions related to child support, spousal or common-law partner support can now be enforced by MEP and custody arrangements can be enforced under The Child Custody Enforcement Act.  Property-related decisions can also be enforced more quickly.

A new web site launched today at www.manitoba.ca/familylaw/ will connect Manitobans with all of the public, private and community services and organizations that are currently available, alongside clear and accurate information about family law issues.  This online hub will help families complete the prerequisites to apply to court including:

  • templates and guidelines to help parents develop their parenting arrangements including sharing parenting time and decision-making responsibilities;
  • appropriate resources like arbitration, mediation and dispute resolution services to assist when they cannot resolve their disputes; and
  • a tool to help families gather all of the financial disclosure information needed for child and spousal support as well as property division.

Manitobans who do not have internet access or require additional assistance can call 204-945-2313 or 1-844-808-2313 (toll-free) or emailgetguidance@gov.mb.ca for a personalized response.

The online hub also includes a public engagement report, which highlights how the province connected with service providers, stakeholders and Manitobans who have in the past, or are currently experiencing separation or divorce, gathering 250 ideas on how to improve the family law system.

The minister noted the online hub and other resources will continue to be implemented to better support Manitoba families and their children, beginning in early 2020.

Provincial officials will continue to speak with families who are sharing their experiences to help develop and improve family law services and supports.  This work will also continue to be guided by a collaboration table, a group created earlier this year to help guide the design and development of family law initiatives.  It includes family law service providers and experts from the legal, social service, financial, academic and non-governmental sectors.

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION ATTACHED




Backgrounder
Background Information - https://www.gov.mb.ca/asset_library/en/newslinks/2020/01/BG-Family_Law_Update-JS.pdf