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The Role of the Family Responsibility Office
What is the Family Responsibility Office and what does it do?
The Family Responsibility Office, or “FRO” as it’s commonly known by family lawyers and judges, is an office of the Ontario Government whose role is to collect, distribute, and enforce child support and spousal support payments.
Who can use the Family Responsibility Office’s services?
If you have a case in the family court system in Ontario and obtain a Temporary or Final Court Order which includes payment of child or spousal support, the Court Order will automatically be sent to FRO for enforcement. FRO will set up payment so that the support payor sends payment to FRO and FRO then forwards that support payment to the recipient of support. The parties can withdraw from FRO’s services at any stage after obtaining a Court Order by completing the appropriate form, so that the support payor can make payment directly to the recipient. Consent of both parties is required to withdraw. If after withdrawing from FRO, the support recipient changes his or her mind, the recipient can use FRO’s services again by completing the appropriate forms and paying a fee.
If you have an Order for support made by a Canadian Court outside Ontario, the Order can be registered with FRO for enforcement using the appropriate forms.
If you have a valid Separation Agreement that you and the other party have entered into, you can also use FRO’s services. Before you can do that, you have to file your Separation Agreement with the court and register the Agreement with FRO using the appropriate forms.
What can the Family Responsibility Office do to enforce support payments?
FRO will assign a case number for each file and keep track of all support payments made. If a support payor doesn’t make support payments and accumulates support arrears, FRO has a few different mechanisms for enforcing support. One of the most common methods is garnishment of a payor’s income, bank accounts, or funds received from the Government of Canada, such as income tax refunds or employment insurance benefits. If this method does not work to catch the support payor up to date on his or her support payments, FRO can report the payor to the credit bureau or take steps to suspend the payor’s driver’s license or passport. FRO also has the authority to place a lien on personal property held by the payor or issue a writ of seizure and sale for a property that the payor owns. In the most extreme cases, FRO can request an order from the court to place the support payor in jail for a period of time.
Does the support payor have to live in Ontario for the Family Responsibility Office to enforce payment?
FRO can enforce payment of support if the payor lives anywhere in Canada, in the United States, and approximately 30 other countries that Ontario has an agreement with.
The Family Responsibility Office is enforcing the incorrect amount of support. What can I do?
If you are a support recipient or payor and believe that support should either be increased, decreased or stopped entirely, FRO does not have the authority to make that decision. If the other party does not agree to change the amount of support, you will have to file a Motion to Change with the Court requesting a change to the existing support payments. FRO can only act on an existing Court Order or Separation Agreement, so you will need to obtain a new Order or Agreement setting out the change in support before FRO can stop enforcing the previous Order or Agreement.
Can The Family Responsibility Office enforce payment of retroactive child support?
If you have a Court Order or Separation Agreement fixing the exact amount of arrears of support, FRO will enforce that amount. If the Order or Agreement provides for a payment plan for the arrears, then FRO will allow the payor to pay according to the payment plan set out.
If you have an Order or Agreement fixing an overpayment of support from the payor to the recipient, FRO does not have the authority to enforce re-payment of that overpayment. You may have to use other enforcement procedures available to individuals in civil proceedings, such as garnishment of income or obtaining a writ of seizure and sale of the debtor’s personal property.
Will The Family Responsibility Office enforce payment of section 7 expenses?
Section 7 “special and extraordinary expenses” are provided for in the Federal and Provincial Child Support Guidelines and include propionate sharing by parents of expenses such as child care expenses, health-related expenses not covered by health insurance, extracurricular activities or post-secondary education expenses. FRO’s ability to enforce payment of these expenses depends on the wording in your Court Order or Separation Agreement. FRO can only enforce payment of these expenses if your Order or Agreement includes specific language about what kinds of expenses are to be considered section 7 expenses. Your Order or Agreement should also include a specific amount payable for each of these expenses at set times, if it is possible to fix the amount of the expenses in advance. If your Order or Agreement includes general language about these expenses without going into specifics of the type of expense and amount payable, FRO will not be able to enforce payment.
For more information about FRO, please visit FRO’s official government website:
For family law assistance or question about how using FRO may apply in your particular circumstance, please contact one of our family law lawyers at McKenzie Lake.