I have written before about the role and mandate of the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). While that blog piece outlined the general duties (which includes the collection, distribution and enforcement of child and spousal support payments), there are some aspects of the FRO’s role with which many people may not be familiar.
Here are some facts about the FRO that may surprise you:
1) The FRO is not just about support.
The FRO’s role is not limited to enforcement child and spousal support obligations: It also enforces private written domestic contracts such as separation agreements, marriage contracts, cohabitation agreements, paternity agreements and family arbitration agreements (provided these have been filed with the Ontario Court of Justice or the Superior Court of Justice (Family Court) beforehand.
2) But, there are some things the FRO will not touch.
There are certain support-related aspects that the FRO will not get involved with. These include:
a. bringing motions to the court to change the amount of support owing; and
b. getting involved with any issues relating to entitlement to support, or custody or access.
3) The FRO can actually reduce the support owed, sometimes.
Under the governing legislation, the FRO has the discretion to reduce or even terminate the amount of support that it will enforce in narrow circumstances, namely where:
a. one or more kids ceases to be eligible for support;
b. where the parents agree in writing that a “terminating event” has occurred with respect to their kid or kids; or
c. where the parent entitled to receive support fails to respond to the FRO within 20 days.
4) The FRO can cast a wide net.
Given that it has enforcement agreements with every Canadian province and territory, with every state in the United States of America, and with 31 countries, the FRO can enforce child and spousal support payments even in situations where one party lives outside Ontario. This is specifically authorized under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, 2002.
5) It has some tricks up its sleeve.
Among the more usual enforcement actions that the FRO can take against you if you are in default of your payments (e.g. garnishing your wages), there are some perhaps-unexpected ones. These include:
a. suspending your Canadian passport;
b. suspending certain federal licenses (e.g. a pilot’s license or maritime or navigational license);
c. reporting you to your professional or occupational organization; and
d. even seizing your lottery winnings!
6) It has a “Most Wanted List” (sort of).
The FRO, through the Ministry of Community and Social Services website, maintains a public list of what it calls “missing, irresponsible parents who have defaulted on the payments owed to their kids”. Located at www.goodparents.pay, it can display a wide array of information about defaulting payors, including:
b. physical description (height, weight, hair and eye colour)
c. approximate age
d. last known address
e. usual occupation/trades, and
f. language(s) spoken.
7) Even bankruptcy doesn’t do it.
It may seem tempting to declare bankruptcy to avoid the long arm of the FRO; however, your support arrears merely become a claim that is made against your estate, with the FRO dealing directly with the bankruptcy trustee like any other creditor.
Do you have questions about how the FRO can help you get the support to which you are entitled?
At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit our main site.