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Before making important decisions regarding family law, you should consult with a member of our legal team in order to understand your legal rights and obligations.

The Family Responsibility Office (FRO)

The Family Responsibility Office, commonly referred to as the ‘FRO’, is a provincial agency that is authorized to enforce support payments from a payor (the person who is obligated to pay support) to the recipient (the person who is entitled to receive support). The Family Responsibility Office enforces both child support and spousal support. The Family Responsibility Office does not have the authority to deal with other types of orders, such as an order for an equalization payment.

All support orders, whether temporary or final, that are made in Ontario are automatically registered for enforcement by the Family Responsibility Office. Parties may withdraw from this enforcement by the Family Responsibility Office, assuming that both spouses give their consent to do so. In addition, according to section 35 of the Family Law Act, any domestic contract dealing with support may also be filed with the Ontario Court of Justice to be enforced by the Family Responsibility Office.

The Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996 empowers the Director of the Family Responsibility Office to collect on outstanding support orders. The Family Responsibility Office is able to sanction the payor if he or she does not pay the recipient. The Family Responsibility Office has broad and effective powers it can use to enforce support, including, but not limited to:

a) Garnishing a payor’s income, and taking the support payments directly from the payor’s employer;

b) Suspending a payor’s driver’s license;

c) Garnishing or seizing a payor’s bank accounts, investments accounts, RRSP’s, etc.;

d) Suspending a payor’s passport;

e) Placing a charge on the payor’s real or personal property; and,

f) Bringing a Default Hearing before a judge (at such a hearing, the payor will have to answer to a Judge with respect to why they are in breach of the support order), where, in the most egregious instances, a Judge has the authority to imprison the payor for a period of time.

The Family Responsibility Office stops enforcement when a support obligation has terminated. This will not occur automatically, rather the Family Responsibility Office will only stop enforcing an existing support order if:

a) The parties both voluntarily advise in writing that support  has terminated; or,

b) If a new order is obtained from the Family Court’s terminating the previous support order. The new order would then have to be provided to the Family Responsibility Office.

According to section 7 of the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, the Family Responsibility Office may refuse to enforce a support order in a number of situations, including the following:

  • The amount of support is nominal.
  • The amount of support cannot be determined from the face of the order because it is expressed as a percentage of the payor’s income.
  • The order is unclear or ambiguous.

Family Responsibility Office: Opting In/Out

In a family law case, the parties may opt out of enforcement by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) if each party consents to this and files a notice of withdrawal with the FRO. The notice must be signed by both parties. According to section 16 of the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, a recipient may subsequently choose to opt back into enforcement by the FRO.

A recipient may unilaterally opt out of enforcement by the FRO if the payor is in default.

A previous case held that arrears accumulated during the withdrawal period cannot be enforced after a recipient opts back in. However, this is no longer the case as this has been cured by an amendment to the legislation.