You may already be familiar with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). It is the provincial government office that enforces support obligations that arise between former spouses and partners who are resolving their Family Law-related matters. The FRO is not responsible for creating orders, but it has a lawful mandate to enforce certain domestic contracts that have been filed with the court, as well as court-imposed support orders.
Provided it has been filed with the court – the FRO will also enforce any marriage contract, cohabitation agreement, paternity agreement, or family arbitration agreement you and your ex have entered in to.
Court-imposed orders for support, once granted, are automatically filed with the FRO, however separation agreements are not.
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This means that if you and your ex have not yet been to court, and/or have no intentions of going to court but have negotiated a formal, written separation agreement that obliges your ex to pay you spousal or child support, then you will have to take certain steps before the FRO can assist you in enforcing that agreement in the event that your ex does not pay.
This article will touch upon the basics of registering a separation agreement with the FRO.
The Registration Process
The registration process is quite simple. You must:
- 1. File your separation agreement with the Ontario Court of Justice or Superior Court of Justice (Family Court), together with an Affidavit for Filing.
- 2. Complete a FRO registration package.
- 3. Mail the FRO registration package, the separation agreement, and the Affidavit for Filing to FRO directly.
In return FRO will:
- 1. Contact both you and your ex, to confirm the information in the separation agreement and to explain how the enforcement processes work.
- 2. Solicit any additional information that is needed, that might assist it to enforce your agreement.
- 3. Send you a confidential, seven-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). This is used with FRO’s automated information line to access information about your case.
- 4. Take active steps, in the form of an enforcement action, to obtain support payments from your ex if they do not comply with the agreement. These can include garnishment, reporting to a credit bureau, driver’s license or passport suspension, and issuing writs of seizure and sale over property. In some cases, the FRO may also post information about your ex on the website goodparentspay.com, in order to try to find them.
Changing a Separation Agreement
In some cases – for example where there has been a change in income or your child has reached the age of majority – you and your ex may have decided to negotiate a new separation agreement, that sets out new support obligations.
In that case, you need to file the new agreement with the same court (i.e. the Ontario Court of Justice or Superior Court of Justice (Family Court), as the case may be), then send a copy to FRO as before.
Withdrawing or Re-Registering Your Case
As indicated, once you have registered, the FRO will take a series of steps to enforce your separation agreement. However, in some circumstances you may decide to discontinue the FRO’s involvement in your matter. In that case, you can withdraw your case.
From the FRO’s standpoint, this can only take place if your ex’s support payments are current, or if you and your ex agree in writing. You will need to fill out a Notice of Withdrawal Form and send it to the FRO.
However, if your ex is in arrears with support payments, then the process is slightly different: You can withdraw your case without obtaining your ex’s consent, but you must complete and submit a Notice by Support Recipient of Unilateral Withdrawal Form.
If you have withdrawn your case but later decide to register anew, both you and your ex will be required to pay a $50 fee to do so.