COURT OF QUEEN’S BENCH OF MANITOBA
RE: MANDATORY ATTENDANCE PARENT INFORMATION PROGRAM
On the recommendation of the Family Law Branch and the Family Division, the Statutory Rules Committee enacted an amendment to Rule 70.24 requiring the attendance of parties to custody, private guardianship or access proceedings at the government-sponsored parent information program, For the Sake of the Children. It has been perceived that this program, which to date has been operated on a voluntary basis, has been very successful in educating parents involved in child custody matters as to the effect separation and divorce will likely have upon the children, and has been of great help in enabling parents to design custody and access provisions in the best interests of the children. The Committee was persuaded that, if possible, the program should be mandated in all cases, and the Department of Family Services and Housing has provided enhanced resources to Family Conciliation to enable this to be done. The compulsory feature of the rule is not absolute and some cases are excluded, e.g., where the matter is unopposed. The court can dispense with the requirement in a proper case; the proceedings cannot be frustrated by the failure of the responding party to attend the program; and there are regional and distance considerations so that persons who do not have ready access to a family conciliation office might participate in the program locally by video.
The highlights are:
1. Parties to a proceeding for custody, access or private guardianship under Part VII of The Child and Family Services Act shall attend the program (except for variation proceedings);
2. A party shall attend before a motion for an interim order is heard, and if none, before an application for a final order is heard;
3. Certificate of attendance to be filed no later than 2:00 p.m. on a day that is two days before the hearing date;
4. The rule does not apply to:
? ? ?(a) an inter-jurisdictional proceeding;
? ? ?(b) consent orders;
? ? ?(c) unopposed proceedings;
? ? ?(d) where default has been noted.
5. Mandatory personal attendance where a party resides in or within 100 kilometres of Winnipeg or Brandon;
6. Mandatory attendance either in person or by electronic viewing at designated locations where a party resides within 80 kilometres of Dauphin, Flin Flon, Swan River, The Pas or Thompson;
7. Where a party does not reside as above or is a party to a proceeding to vary, the court may require a party to attend by a specified date and manner;
8. Exemptions if a party has attended the program (or a comparable program in another jurisdiction) within the previous two years;
9. Deferral or alternative attendance or exemption in a case of urgency, hardship or where otherwise appropriate;
10. Parent information program pamphlet to be distributed to a party for service on all other parties;
11. Obligation of a party’s lawyer to give a copy of the pamphlet to the party;
12. Responding party’s failure to attend does not preclude the judge from proceeding with a motion or application;
13. The consequences of failure to attend are:
? ? ?(a) any order that the judge considers appropriate;
? ? ?(b) order to attend;
? ? ?(c) costs against a party or a party’s lawyer;
? ? ?(d) refusing to consider the party’s evidence;
? ? ?(e) suspending the party’s right to submit evidence;
? ? ?(f) adjourning, staying or dismissing the proceeding;
? ? ?(g) striking out all or part of a pleading.
Please note this rule comes into force on May 15, 2007 and applies to an application filed on or after that date, and a motion filed on or after that date, including a motion that relates to an application that was filed before the date.
Original signed by___________________
The Honourable Mr. Justice G.O. Jewers
Chairperson, Queen’s Bench Rules Committee
DATE: April 25, 2007