FAQ: Enforcing Support

Find out the answers to frequently asked questions ("FAQs") with regard to family law and other legal issues.

My ex spouse has moved outside of Canada. How can I ensure that the order pertaining to our divorce will be enforced?

Whether or not the court order will be enforceable depends greatly on where exactly your former spouse has relocated. Different places around the world have different agreements, or no agreement at all, with Canada, in terms of enforcing court orders.

There are some jurisdictions that have, what is commonly referred to as, reciprocal enforcement agreements with Canada. For example, if your ex spouse were to relocate to a jurisdiction within the United States, then the court order would be enforceable.

In the event that your spouse is moving to an area that does not have reciprocal enforcement agreements with Canada, you ought to consider and discuss the following with your lawyer:

  1. Requesting lump sum support.
  2. Obtaining security in order to compensate you in the event that things such as support payments were unenforceable, or in the event that your ex spouse is in contempt of the order. This property would be held “in trust”, meaning that you would not freely have access to it. In the event that your ex spouse does not provide the requisite support, that property will be available to you.

For more information on the options available to you, to protect yourself, in the event that you’re ex spouse is planning on moving outside of Canada, contact Krol & Krol at 905.707.3370.

What is the Family Responsibility Office (FRO)?

The Family Responsibility Office (often referred to as the ‘FRO’) is an agency that has the authority to enforce support payments from a payor to a recipient.  In other words, when a spousal support order or child support order is filed with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), the onus to collect and distribute the support is then shifted from the parties onto the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).

The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) does not deal with issues such as custody, access and orders with respect to equalization payments.

The goal of the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) is to collect, distribute, and enforce both child and spousal support orders.

The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) may sanction the payor if he or she does not pay the person who is supposed to receive support. The powers of the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) that it may use in order to enforce support, include, but are not limited to:

a) Taking the support payments directly from the payor’s employer;

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

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

d) Suspending a payor’s passport.

For more information on the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), contact Krol & Krol at 905.707.3370.

Ashak v. Ontario: Can I Sue the FRO?

In the case of Ashak v. Ontario, the Court canvassed the issue as to whether the Family Responsibility Office (commonly referred to as the ‘FRO’) can be sued when they are negligent and/or act in a substandard manner.

In the case of Ashak v. Ontario, the husband was ordered by the Ontario Courts to pay both child and spousal support to his former wife and children. Like many other spousal and child support orders, the wife filed the order with the FRO.

Following the finalization of the divorce, the husband fled the country. He left to Iraq, a country upon which Canada had no reciprocal support enforcement agreement. This means that Iraq did not enforce orders made in Canada. The husband did not pay any support to his wife or children, and therefore his Canadian passport was suspended by the FRO.

The husband then went to the FRO as he wanted his passport to be reinstated.  The FRO advised the husband that they would only do so if he pays all of his support arrears or if he secures a variation of support (either court ordered or agreed upon by the parties).

Subsequently, the husband went to the FRO claiming that he and his lawyer were waiting for the variation order. The FRO proceeded to remove the suspension of the husband’s passport. The husband then left Canada and has yet to return.

The wife proceeded to sue to see the FRO for damages, claiming that there was a breach of duty, negligence, gross negligence and breach of a fiduciary duty.

The FRO attempted to have the charges dismissed by bringing a summary judgment motion. In other words, they attempted to have the action dismissed. They stated that there was no genuine issue for trial because the wife (a private citizen) had no cause of action against the Family Responsibility Office (a public agency).

However, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice allowed the case to proceed to court. Therefore, this matter will be proceeding to trial. The outcome of this case will be very interesting, as it will provide insight as to if and when the FRO may be sued when they are deemed to have acted in a negligent manner and/or breached their duty.

Call Krol & Krol today at 905.707.3370 for more information on the FRO.

Reciprocating jurisdiction: Are orders of child support from another country valid in Ontario?

On the issue of a reciprocating jurisdiction, there are only certain circumstances whereby a child support order from another country would be recognized as valid in Ontario.   In order for Ontario to recognize orders from another country, the area from which the original child support order was made must participate in a “reciprocating jurisdiction” relationship with Ontario.

A “reciprocating jurisdiction” relationship means that Ontario and the area in question have entered into a formal arrangement wherein they have agreed to enforce each other’s support orders. In the event that the country in question does in fact have a reciprocating jurisdiction relationship, then the order may be enforced in Ontario.

If you wish to have Ontario recognize a foreign child support order as valid, you are required to register the documentation with the courts in Ontario. Once the documentation has been filed with the Ontario courts, you may move to have the child support order enforced in Ontario.

In the event that you wish to have Ontario enforce child support payments, you may register the documentation with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).

To learn more about reciprocating jurisdictions, contact Toronto divorce lawyers at Krol & Krol at 905.707.3370.