How does the Family Responsibility Office work? For women’s advocates
The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) is a program of the Ministry of Community and Social Services that collects and distributes court-ordered child and spousal support payments. If the person paying support fails to do so, FRO can enforce the court order in a number of ways.
Its authority flows from the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act.
Through the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, FRO can enforce child and spousal support orders even when one of the parties lives outside Ontario through enforcement agreements with every province in Canada, every state in the United States and 31 other countries.
When a court makes a support order, it automatically sends the order and the Support Deduction Order to FRO, which then contacts the payor and the recipient in order to register the order. Both parties must complete the registration package in order for FRO to be able to set up collection and distribution of the support.
Your clients may benefit from reading about FRO on FamilyCourtAndBeyond.ca.
If you are working with a woman who has dealt with support through a separation agreement or other domestic contract, this can still be enforced through FRO. She needs to file it with the family court in her jurisdiction along with an Affidavit for Filing and then provide FRO with the domestic contract, Affidavit and completed FRO registration package.
Once the order/contract is registered, FRO provides both parties with a 7-digit case number and a Personal Identification Number that can be used to track the file.
Generally, the recipient’s first payment will be direct deposited into her bank account within 30 to 60 days of FRO receiving the completed registration package and the court documents.
However, there can be delays. It is important for women to take the time to provide as much detailed information as they can in their registration package. This is why, if it is possible, women should take information about their partner’s employment income and banking when they leave the family home.
Delays can also happen if the payor is self-employed, works seasonally or for a family business or is paid in cash.
Once the first payment has been made, subsequent payments are generally deposited in the recipient’s bank account within 48 hours of FRO collecting the money. It is important for the support recipient to let FRO know immediately of any changes to her banking arrangements so there are no delays in the flow of her support payments.
If he doesn’t pay
If a woman has not received a payment for more than 30 days she should contact FRO at 416-326-1818 or 800-267-7263. She must have both the case number and her PIN handy for the call.
FRO will initially try to work with the payor to develop a plan to have any back support (arrears) paid while also ensuring that ongoing support payments are made.
If the payor does not enter into a payment plan, FRO can take enforcement action against him. This includes:
- Garnishing bank accounts
- Garnishing money he receives from the federal government (tax refunds, EI, OAS or CPP benefits)
- Reporting him to the credit bureau
- Suspending his driver’s licence
- Suspending his passport or other federal licences such as a pilot’s licence
- Placing a lien on his personal property
- Issuing a writ of seizure and sale for property he owns
- Reporting him to his professional association
- Seizing lottery winnings
- Starting a default hearing, which can lead to up to 180 days of jail time
The Indian Act, which is federal legislation, limits the province’s ability to pass laws affecting property or income held by Status Indians living on reserve.
FRO can register and enforce support payments when both the recipient and payor are Status Indians. However, if the recipient is not a Status Indian, FRO cannot take enforcement action against property or income of the payor that is held on reserve. (For example, if the woman is not a Status Indian, but her former partner is, and his income is all earned on reserve, FRO cannot enforce the support order if he does not voluntarily make payments.)
With the consent of the recipient, if the payor has not made a support payment for at least six months and FRO has been unable to locate him, it can post the payor’s personal information online at Good Parents Pay.