How is child support enforced?
Enforcement in Ontario is done through a provincial government office called the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). The court automatically files all support orders made after July 1, 1987 with the FRO. Separation agreements can also be filed there if they have been filed with the court and then mailed to the FRO.
The parent who is to pay support is told to make all support payments to the FRO. When the FRO receives a payment, it sends a cheque to the parent with custody, or deposits the money directly into that parent’s bank account. It only does this after it has received the money from the paying parent.
If a payment is missed, the FRO takes action to enforce the order or agreement. To do this, the FRO needs as much up-to-date information about the paying parent as possible. This includes his or her full name, address, social insurance number, place of employment or business, income, and any property he or she owns. The information about the paying parent goes on a Support Deduction Information Form which is available at the court. This form is given to the FRO along with the support order or agreement. It is important to update this form whenever the information changes.
The FRO uses different ways to get the payments that are owed. It can:
- get the payments directly from the parent who is supposed to pay support
- have the payments automatically deducted from the parent’s wages or other income (other income includes things like sales commissions, Employment Insurance, Workers’ Compensation, income tax refunds, severance pay, and pensions)
- register a charge (a lien) against the personal property or real estate of a parent who fails to pay the support that he or she owes
- garnish (take money from) the bank account of a parent who fails to pay support
- garnish up to 50% of a joint bank account that he or she has with someone else, or
- make an order against another person who is helping a parent hide or shelter income or assets that should go toward support
The FRO can put more pressure on parents who do not make their support payments by:
- suspending their driver’s licences
- reporting them to the credit bureau so that it will be difficult for them to get loans, or
- cancelling their passports.
Once the order or agreement is filed with the FRO, then it is the FRO, not the other parent, that is responsible for any actions taken to enforce it.
Sometimes parents receiving support withdraw from the FRO because it is easier to receive payments directly from the other parent. But if problems arise later, and they want to re-file with the FRO, they might have to pay a fee to do this.
Parents who have an obligation to pay support should also know that the FRO cannot change the amount that the order or agreement says they have to pay. If they think that a change in their financial situation justifies a reduction in the amount of support they should pay, they must get a new agreement or go to court to get the support order changed.
FRO can be contacted by calling 1-800-267-7263 or you can also visit their web site athttp://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/familyResponsibility/index.aspx.