Whether you’re the recipient or payor of child support, you may be wondering how child support orders are enforced in Ontario.
Non-payment of a child support order in Ontario is dealt with by the Family Responsibility Office – FRO.
[The FRO] collects, distributes and enforces child and spousal support payments. [It] work[s] to flow payments from the person who pays the support (the payor) to the person who is entitled to it (the recipient).
The FRO handles over 180,000 cases each year and collects about $650 million in support payments.
Parties Are Required by Law to Adhere to a Child Support Order
Child support is the right of the child. A parent cannot refuse to pay child support that has been ordered, even if the other parent denies them access to the child. Similarly, access to a child does not have to be provided simply because the other parent makes the child support payments that have been ordered.
Sometimes a parent cannot afford to pay child support, or they need a reduction in the amount they are obligated to pay. This can be done either by agreement with the other parent, or via court order. Courts will look at issues such as undue hardship and the differential between a payor’s standard of living and the payee’s standard of living in deciding whether a reduction or elimination of a child support obligation is warranted.
FRO Enforcement Actions
Any support order issued by an Ontario court or any support agreement in a domestic contract filed with an Ontario court will be enforced by the FRO. Unless the parties agree expressly in writing to withdraw from the FRO, the agency will act as an intermediary for all payments once a support obligation has been registered with them.
If payments are not being made by the payor spouse, the FRO can pursue one or more steps to collect payment. The office states that it has
…the legal authority and responsibility to take enforcement action to recover…money…
Enforcement actions the FRO can take include:
- garnishing bank accounts;
- garnishing money the payor may be entitled to receive from the Government of Canada (e.g. income tax refunds, Canada Pension Plan benefits);
- reporting the payor to the credit bureau;
- suspending the payor’s driver’s licence;
- suspending the payor’s Canadian passport or other federal licence;
- placing a lien on the payor’s personal property;
- issuing a writ of seizure and sale for property the payor owns;
- reporting the payor to his or her professional or occupational organization;
- seizing lottery winnings; and
- starting a Default Hearing, which could lead to up to 180 days of jail time.
As we can see from the list of possible enforcement actions, failure to pay child support can lead to serious, life-altering consequences. Losing one’s passport, licence, or professional licence could result in additional financial difficulties for the payor, and jail time would obviously have serious repercussions for the payor and his or her loved ones.
If you have questions about child support, or concerns about your ability to pay the amount of child support that has been ordered or agreed to in a separation agreement, contact Gelman & Associates at (416) 736-0200 or 1-844-742-0200 or contact us online for a confidential initial consultation.