What is the Family Responsibility Office?

In Ontario, when a person is ordered by a court to pay spousal or child support, a Support Order is automatically filed with the Family Responsibility Office. The Family Responsibility Office (“FRO”) is a government agency under the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and has authority under the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcements Act, 1996 (“FRSAEA”) and the Inter-Jurisdictional Support Order Act, 2002 (“IJSOA”). The FRO deals primarily with issues surrounding post-marital financial arrangements, including child and spousal support payments, and enforcement against non-compliant support payors.

What does the FRO do?

The Family Responsibility Office has several functions. However, the FRO’s primary duty is to enforce the financial obligations of spouses to each other. In short, the FRO is mandated to strictly enforce Support Orders in Ontario by collecting amounts and ensuring the right party is paid in accordance with the applicable Support Order. This process typically involves child support and spousal support payments as ordered by the court and stipulated in a Separation Agreement. The FRO acts as an intermediary between the involved parties by collecting payments from the payor spouse and disbursing them to the recipient spouse.

FRO’s Enforcement Powers

Pursuant to the FRSAEA, if you or your partner miss any support payments, the FRO can take action to enforce your court order or Separation Agreement and collect the funds. The FRO may use any enforcement mechanism necessary to enforce a Support Order if the payor defaults on their payment. The following measures are the most common enforcement methods employed by the FRO:

  1.  Garnishing bank accounts;
  2.  Garnishing funds to be received from the government (ex. funds such as employment insurance, Canadian Pension Plan, tax refunds, etc.);
  3.  Reporting to the credit bureau;
  4.  Suspending an individual’s driver’s licence;
  5.  Suspending an individual’s federal licence, such as a passport;
  6.  Placing a lien on the payor’s property;
  7.  Placing a writ of seizure and sale against the payor; and/or,
  8.  Initiating a Default Hearing.

If the above-mentioned mechanisms fail to enforce payment, the FRO can have the defaulting payor brought back to court and found to be in contempt of the Support Order, which may result in a fine or imprisonment against the defaulting party.

What if the Payor resides outside of Ontario?

It is important to note that pursuant to the IJSOA, the FRO may collect child or spousal support payments even if the payor resides outside of Ontario. Specifically, the IJSOA permits the FRO to collect child or spousal support payments where one spouse is living in Ontario and the other spouse is living in a “reciprocating jurisdiction” such as the United States, Hong Kong, Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.

If you are a support payor, it is important for you to ensure that the FRO has been updated with your most up-to-date contact information, and that you work out a payment plan if you fall behind on your payments.

How Chand & Co. Can Help

The Family Responsibility Office provides certain advantages in the management of support payments with spouses who have a habit of mishandling funds or missing payments. At Chand & Co., our experienced Family Law lawyers can help navigate your support payments by requesting that the payments be put through the FRO on your behalf, by updating your contact information with the FRO, by drafting new support orders, by altering existing support orders (where applicable), and by assisting you with your support obligations.

If you would like to discuss your support obligations or any enforcement measures available to you, we invite you to contact us for a consultation at 416-583-2377.

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