How Child and Spousal Support Orders are Enforced: Family Responsibility Office

The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) is responsible for enforcing both child support and spousal support orders. All court orders for child support and spousal support are automatically filed with FRO. If there exists an agreement between the parties regarding support, the parties may file a copy of the agreement with FRO for enforcement by the office.

Once a child or spousal support order is filed with FRO, the party responsible for making the payments must send all payments to FRO. The FRO acts as an intermediary between the payor and the payee. As such, when the FRO receives money from the payor, it will send it directly to the payee.

If the payor is late or misses a required support payment, the FRO has the authority to take certain measures to collect the money. For instance, if the payor is employed, the FRO has the authority to order the payor’s employer to deduct the support payments owing from the payor’s wages. If, however, the payor is unemployed or self-employed, the FRO can attempt to take the support money owing from the payor’s bank account (known as garnishing an account). In addition, the FRO has the authority to place a lien on the payor’s personal property such as a car or home and if the payor attempts to sell the property, the FRO is permitted to collect the outstanding support money owing. In extreme circumstances, such as when the payor is consistently late or where there is a substantial amount of support money owing, the FRO can attempt to compel the payor to pay by suspending their driver’s license and any recreational licenses, such as a fishing or hunting license. The FRO can also cancel the payor’s passport or redirect funds owed to the payor by the government (such as a tax refund or employment insurance benefits) to the payee to satisfy the outstanding support payments.

If the payor resides outside of Ontario but within Canada or the United States, the FRO still has the authority to collect support payments since all the provinces and the states have agreed to permit the FROs to collect support orders across the jurisdictions. The province of Ontario also has similar agreements with other countries, including Bermuda, Ghana, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. If the payor does not live in a country where there is an agreement in place with Ontario, the FRO is unable to help the payee enforce the support order. The only option for the payee is to rely on the laws of the jurisdiction in which the payor lives to enforce the support order.

Payors are well advised to contact a lawyer if they are unable to make payments on time and, even moreso, in situations where the FRO is already taking steps of enforcement.

 by Christina Sappone, law student, and Roxana Soica, lawyer, Soica Law Professional Corporation
**The above is not legal advice and subject to exceptions and other considerations based on the specific facts of your case.