Enforcing Child and Spousal Support Payments – The Role of the Family Responsibility Office

January 12, 2013
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

In Ontario, the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) is a government agency which can assist in the enforcement of spousal and child support payments owing from one ex-spouse to the other.

Here are the important points to know:

1) Automatic Filing and Deduction.  If the paying spouse’s obligation to pay support to the recipient spouse arises by way of a court order, it is automatically filed with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).   In the event of default by that paying spouse, the FRO can then process child and spousal support orders, using various means to assist with enforcement.

2) Voluntary Filing.   If the support obligation does not come from a court order, but rather arises because the parties have reached agreement in a domestic contract (such as a separation agreement, cohabitation agreement, or paternity agreement), then the support payments can still be processed through the FRO, provided they are first voluntarily filed with both the court and the FRO.  (They can also be enforced privately).

3)  What the FRO Does.  If the spouse with the obligation to make child or spousal support payments has not been making payments (or has not been making them on-time, or in full), then the other spouse can take various steps to recover the money owed.    However once a court order has been filed with it, the FRO is entitled to take all the same legal steps on the recipient spouse’s behalf.  These include having the spouse’s wages or bank account garnished, seizing his or her RRSP, or filing a writ on the paying spouse’s home.

4)  Additional Powers.  Beyond those measures taken in the recipient spouse’s stead, the FRO also has a wide array of additional powers and legal remedies in its arsenal, which further enable it to assist with enforcement of support orders.  These include suspending the paying spouse’s driver’s license, and deducting money owed from federal government sources such as income tax refunds or Employment Insurance benefits.

For further information on the role, duties and powers of the Ontario Family Responsibility Office, feel free to contact our office and request a consultation appointment with one of our lawyers.