The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) is a branch of the Ministry of Community and Social Services of Ontario.
Section 5 of the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, S.O. 1996, c. 31 gives the FRO the authority “to enforce support orders where the support order and the related support deduction order, if any, are filed in the office and to pay the amounts collected to the person to whom they are owed.”
Therefore, once an order or agreement is filed with the court the FRO is automatically given the power to enforce it. If you vary an order it will automatically be filed with the FRO, but if you vary an agreement you must ensure that you re-file it with the FRO so that it too may be enforced.
You and your former spouse/partner may withdraw from the services of the FRO if it is done expressly, in writing, and with the consent of both of you. The effect of withdrawal allows the recipient parent or spouse to receive the payments directly from the paying parent or spouse. However, before you agree to this you should be aware that by withdrawing from the FRO you are waiving the right to have your support payments enforced and in order to re-file with the FRO at a later date you will be required to pay a $50.00 fee.
When an order or agreement is filed with the FRO the following information of the paying parent or spouse must also be provided:
- his or her full name,
- place of employment,
- social insurance number,
- income, and
- any property he or she owns.
The paying parent or spouse, therefore, makes all payments to the FRO and then the FRO either sends the recipient a cheque or deposits the payment directly into his or her bank account. However, in order to pass the payment on to the recipient the FRO has to have received the money from the paying parent or spouse. This can pose problems if the paying parent stops sending payments which is why the FRO is able to enforce it using the powers granted under s. 6 of the Act:
6. (1) The Director shall carry out his or her duties in the manner, if any, that appears practical to the Director and, for the purpose, may commence and conduct a proceeding and take any steps in the Director’s name for the benefit of recipients, including,
Some of the “enforcement mechanisms” that may be used are :
- taking the payments directly from the paying parent or spouse
- Deducting the payments directly from the paying parent’s or paying spouse’s wages or other sources of income, i.e. sales commissions, Employment Insurance, Workers’ Compensation, income tax refunds, severance pay and pensions.
- Registering a lien against the personal property or real estate of the paying parent or spouse
- Garnishing the bank account of the paying parent or spouse or garnish 50% of a joint bank account belonging partly to a paying parent or spouse
- Making an order against another person who is helping the paying parent or spouse hide his or her income/assets
- Suspending the paying parent’s or paying spouse’s driver licence
- Reporting the paying parent or spouse to the credit bureau (which would make it difficult for them to get a loan)
- Cancelling their passport
The payments that have not been made (the arrears) will be recovered and the paying parent may be required to pay them in instalments or pursuant to an agreement entered into with the FRO.
The FRO does not decide when support payments should stop, rather that is for the parties or the court to decide. Therefore, when a paying parent or spouse informs the FRO to terminate the support payments, the FRO will send a letter of confirmation to the recipient parent or spouse. Based on the response of the recipient parent or spouse the FRO may stop enforcing payments.
As a recipient parent or spouse, you must always ensure that the FRO is kept up-to-date with your contact information and bank account information so that you may receive your payments by cheque or direct deposit without delay.
You should also be aware of the fact that due to formal arrangements between Ontario, all Canadian provinces and territories, the United states and other countries, support orders made in these reciprocating jurisdictions may be enforced by the FRO.
The FRO therefore helps parents and spouses meet their child support and/or spousal support responsibilities and ensures that parents and spouses continue to support their children and spouses.