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By Jeffrey Mammon, B.A. J.D., Family Law Lawyer

What is the FRO?

The Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act is the Statutory Authority that provides the FRO the legislative powers to enforce child and spousal support Court Orders and Separation Agreements that include child and /or spousal support provisions.

The FRO ensures that the support obligations made within Court Orders or Separation Agreements are paid and up to date.  When a Support Court Order is made in Court there is an automatic Support Deduction Order made by the Judge that authorizes the FRO to enforce and collect the support amount from the support payor pursuant to the terms of the Court Order.   The FRO collects the support  payment from the support payor and remits the payment to the support recipient.

What Are the Benefits of Having the FRO?

The FRO will keep records of the monthly support payments that are due and what support payments were actually collected and paid by the support payor.   This is called a Statement of Arrears that is kept by the FRO.  If the payments are all up to date the Statement  of Arrears will show a zero balance owing. When payments are not being made by the support payor the Statement of Arrears will show the running balance of those non-payments and will calculate the total balance of arrears owed to the support recipient.

The FRO has the legal authority to collect the monthly support payments from the support payor’s employer directly from payroll and to enforce the terms of the Court Order or Separation Agreement by  garnishing the wages of the support payor.   The support payor also has the option of paying the FRO directly by direct withdrawal payment from their bank account instead of going through their payroll.   For self-employed payors this option is ideal as they may not have any payroll to garnish their wages from. Should the payor fall into arrears due to non-payment of their support obligation the FRO may enforce the support payment by various means including garnishing wages, bank accounts, Tax Refunds or Tax Credits that are payable to the support payor and re-directing those funds to the support recipient on account of the support owed to them.  If the support payor continues to refuse to pay or there are no other ways for the FRO to collect,  the FRO has the legislative authority to suspend all Provincial and Federal licenses that the payor may have, including their driver’s license,  boating license, fishing license and also  may  suspend the payor’s Passport.

The support recipient has these added layers of protection should the support payor not pay their support obligation.  In essence, the FRO acts  like a “collection agency”  on the support recipient’s behalf ensuring that the payments are made, collected and remitted to the recipient.   The FRO is much more than just a “collection agency” as they have the legal authority to freeze assets of the payor and as stated above suspend their driver’s license or other Provincial and Federal licenses, including their Passport.

In addition, if there are substantial unpaid arrears in support by the payor the FRO has the legislative authority to obtain a warrant of committal on the payor and the payor may face imprisonment for non-payment of their child and /or spousal support obligations and the payor will not be released from jail until they satisfy payment of the amount owed in arrears or make a payment plan arrangement with the FRO that is satisfactory to the FRO.   It is therefore very important to ensure that if you are the payor that you are up to date with your support obligation and that you do not fall into any arrears as there may be very serious consequences for missing payments.

Why is It Important to Update Your Support Court Order/ Separation Agreement With the FRO?

If there are any changes made to the amount of the child and/or spousal support owing in arrears or what is being paid on a monthly basis, it is important to update that information with the Court by obtaining with the Court a new revised Court Order that states the new  support terms and having the new Court Order filed with the FRO so that their records are up to date.  This will ensure that the FRO is collecting the correct up to date support amount.  It is important that if there is a change to the Court Order or Agreement  that the parties file their Motion To Vary/Change the old Court Order and obtain a new Court Order so that the FRO has the correct amount to enforce as this will ensure that the FRO enforces and collects the correct amount due.

It is very important to, as soon as possible, reach an agreement with the support recipient  and to update the Court Order or Agreement as to ensure that the FRO receives an update Support Deduction Order to add to their files.  It is also important to notify the FRO  and the Court when the support obligation ends as to ensure that there is no more enforcement needed and to terminate the Court Order or Agreement.  The parties  will need to cooperate and sign such legal papers to update the Court and the FRO to terminate the enforcement of the support payments. This will ensure that when the payments stop that the FRO does not continue to accumulate any arrears owed by the payor and that their records are updated.   If the parties are unable to reach a consent to either change the support amount or terminate the Court Order then one of the parities will need to ask the  Judge to make such new Court Order and  that the new Court Order will be forwarded to the FRO to update their records.

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