Area of Law: Family Law
Answer # 120
How are support orders enforced?Region: Ontario Answer # 120
File with the Family Responsibility Office
To ensure that payments are made, all spousal support orders and child support orders (including child support orders that have been set-up online) which are issued by the courts are now automatically sent to the Ontario Government’s Family Responsibility Office (FRO).
Child Support orders filed online
When child support is set-up or changed using the online method, both parents may be required to complete a consent form to allow the Canada Revenue Agency to share their income information with the service.
Once this is done, both parents will be mailed a Notice of Calculation or Recalculation. This document includes the new child support arrangement, including the amount to be paid, and it can be enforced just like a court order. Visit ontario.ca for more information on filing for child support online.
Support orders made through a written agreement
If you have reached an agreement for child or spousal support (usually as part of a separation agreement) without a court order, you are still able to file your agreement with the FRO at any time, and ask them to enforce it. The FRO will do so provided that the agreement has been filed with the court. By filing with the court, it enables the agreement to be enforced as if it were an order of the court.
To have it enforced by the FRO you must:
- Submit a copy of the written arrangement and completed affidavit (that shows agreement was submitted) to the nearest courthouse. This can be submitted by mail or in person.
- Send a copy of the written agreement only to the Family Responsibility Office by mail or fax.
How is support paid?
The FRO Office then co-ordinates and monitors all support payments. All payments are made to the FRO, not the party receiving support. If the paying spouse is employed, payments are automatically deducted from the supporting spouse’s pay and sent to the FRO. If payments are not being deducted from an employed supporting spouse’s pay, payments must be sent directly, by the supporting spouse, to the FRO by one of the following methods:
- Pre-authorized debit (PAD) from a bank account
- Arrangements with their financial institution
- Telephone banking (if available)
- Online banking (if available)
- Cheque or money order
In all situations, the Office forwards the payments to the receiving spouse, either by cheque or direct deposit. The first payment should be received within 30 to 60 days after the support order is registered. After that, the money is sent to the recipient within 24 to 48 hours.
In order for the FRO to be able to assist you in enforcing your order or agreement, it is necessary for them to have sufficient details about your case. Therefore, when filing your order or agreement, you must also submit the Support Deduction Information Form, which is available at the court. This form asks for information about you and your spouse, including detailed information about the payor spouse, such as their full name, address, social insurance number, place of employment or business, income, and any property they own. The support deduction order allows the FRO to collect support by sending notice to a support payor’s employer or other income source. Support can then be deducted from the payor’s income.
It is important to update the information on this form whenever the information changes, for example if your spouse gets a different job or moves. By having up-to-date information, the FRO will be able to better help you collect your support payments.
How can unpaid support be collected?
If the supporting spouse does not enter into a payment plan, such as automatic deductions from employment, or has not been making payments to the FRO by any other method as required, the FRO can take various courses of action to enforce the order or agreement. The FRO has been given a broad range of powers. For example, the FRO can:
- garnish, meaning to take money from, the defaulting spouse’s other sources of income, if the spouse does not have a regular employer, such as a bank account, an income tax refund, a pension or even a disability payment;
- in some circumstances, take steps to sell property owned by the spouse and put that money toward support payments (called issuing a writ of seizure and sale for property);
- put a lien on the defaulting spouse’s personal or real property, such as a car or house;
- suspend the driver’s licence of a defaulting spouse;
- report the defaulting spouse to credit bureaus so that it will be difficult for them to get loans; or
- cancel the defaulting spouse’s passport.
The FRO will only cease its enforcement actions if both the recipient and payor spouses agree. For more information, visit the Family Responsibility Office.
Getting the advice and legal help you need
Child and spousal support payments are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Filing for support, asking for changes to payments, and enforcing payment can be very difficult and quite complex. A lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and obligations, and help you to create the best possible arrangement. It is advisable to get the legal help that’s right for you. If you are considering representing yourself in a family law matter, you may wish to get help from The Family Law Coach. Their experienced family law lawyers can provide information, legal assistance, advice and practical tips to help you prepare your case and improve your outcome. They provide specific services for fixed prices, and you only pay for the services you want. If you are considering hiring a lawyer to represent you, for legal advice and assistance regarding child and spousal support issues, and other family law matters, contact a family law lawyer.
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