More About the Family Responsibility Office: Some Common Problems, Addressed
In one of last week’s Blog posts, I detailed some of the more specific elements and frequently-asked questions about the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), which is a government office in charge of processing child and spousal support orders, and providing enforcement support for recipients through various means.
To continue on that topic, I am addressing some question from spousal or child support recipients or payors that come up quite frequently:
1) What if the payor’s address is unknown? The FRO can enforce a support order even if it does not have the support payor’s current address or employer information (although it certainly helps!) Even if the FRO does not have the payor’s current address, telephone number and employer information, the FRO will still register the recipient’s support entitlement, and can track support payments and arrears.
Incidentally, by law payors are required to tell the FRO about any changes to their personal information within 10 days of the change to avoid possible enforcement action. If a payor does not provide this information within the time stipulated, If we don’t get this information from the payor or the recipient, we have a number of tools available to search for the payor’s address or employment information. Once we find the information we need, we can take enforcement action, if necessary, to recover any money owed.
2) What if the payor has left the province or the country? In cases where there is a cross-border element, (e.g. the recipient lives in Ontario but the payor lives in another province or in the U.S.) the FRO can take various steps to enforce payment. These arise through legislation including the Ontario Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, 2002, which allows the FRO to enforce support orders involving Ontarians and people who live in other reciprocating jurisdictions.
For example, if the payor moves to another province, the Act specifically allows the FRO can ask the province to enforce the support order. On the other hand, if the payor moves to another country, and provided there is a reciprocal enforcement agreement in place, the FRO can ask the government of that country to enforce the support order. FRO has entered into enforcement agreements with every Canadian province and territory, as well as 31 countries. These different governments are known as ‘reciprocating jurisdictions’.
Finally, the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, 2002 also allows the FRO to:
•Register and enforce support orders issued outside of Ontario;
•Make or change a support order when the recipient lives in Ontario and the payor lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction; and
•Make or change a support order when the payor lives in Ontario and the recipient lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction.
For example the FRO may file a Writ of Seizure and Sale against the support payor in Ontario, which allows the FRO to take any profits the arise on the sale of the payor’s assets, such as his or her home or cottage. The FRO can also suspend the payor’s driver’s license if needed.
3) What if the payor is self-employed? In the normal course, when the court issues a support order, it also issues a “support deduction order”, which gives the FRO the authority to ask the payor’s employer (or other source of income) to deduct the support payments from the payor’s income, and forward them directly to the FRO. (And a payor is obliged to notify the FRO if he or she changes employers.)
However, those payors who are not on a regular payroll, or who are self-employed or unemployed, are responsible for making all payments directly to the FRO. This can be arranged in one of several ways: 1) Pre-authorized debit (PAD) from a bank account; 2) Internet banking and telebanking; 3) Cheques or money orders; or 4) by mail.
4) Is it true that my car can be impounded for non-payment of support?
As I have detailed previously, the FRO has a wide variety of enforcement options at its disposal. For example, in some circumstances the FRO can suspend the payor’s driver’s license for non-payment of support. (Note that this consequence is not generally imposed after only one missed payment, but rather my result after the payor has continued to default on payments and is unwilling to work out a payment plan. Moreover, this avenue is taken only after the payor is notified in writing in advance, and is given various options to avoid the suspension.) However, as part of the Ontario Road Safety Act, 2009 which is effective December 1, 2010, a driver who is found to be driving with a suspended licence under the Highway Traffic Act for (among other reasons) continuing to default on support payments, the police may impound the driver’s vehicle for seven days. So – as a result of the combined operation of these two events – a defaulting payor may indeed find that his or her vehicle has been impounded.