What's in the FRO's Enforcement Arsenal?

January 9, 2014
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

As we have discussed in a prior article, in Ontario the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) is tasked with assisting child and spousal support recipients whose former spouses have defaulted or fallen behind on their court-ordered payments.

If you are the spouse who has been ordered to pay support, it is always best to avoid putting yourself in a situation where the FRO becomes involved.

One has only to look at the list of powers and remedies available to the FRO, to understand why.   Indeed, by way of legislation the FRO has been given a wide array of enforcement mechanisms that can be applied against you if you fall behind or fail to pay support as ordered.  Those remedies and enforcement mechanisms include:

1) Garnishment

This includes:

  • garnishing your bank accounts
  • garnishing money paid or refunded to you by the government, e.g. income tax refunds, employment insurance benefits, Canada Pension Plan benefits, and Old Age Security benefits)

2) Suspension

The FRO can intervene to suspend certain identification documentation, including:

  • suspending your driver’s licence
  • suspending your Canadian passport or other federal licences (including a pilot’s licence, as well as maritime and navigational licences and certificates)

3) Seizure and Liens

Various property that you own can be seized by the FRO pending your payment of support or arrears.  This includes:

  • placing a lien on your personal property
  • issuing a writ of seizure and sale for property that you own
  • seizing any lottery winnings

4) Reporting

The FRO may:

  • report you to the credit bureau
  • report you to your any professional or occupational organization to which you belong

5) Jail

  • The FRO may also commence a Default Hearing, which could result in you spending up to 180 days in jail.

The good news is that all of these enforcement mechanisms available to the FRO — as imposing as they are — can all be avoided by merely paying the support that you have been ordered to pay.

Is the FRO using its enforcement mechanisms against you? Do you have questions about your rights and obligations?  Contact us for a consultation.