The Family Responsibility Office

Child support and spousal support enforcement is handled by a government entity called the Family Responsibility Office, or the ‘FRO’.

The FRO has a great deal of power. Typically, when a child support, or spousal support order is issued, the court sends a copy of this order to the FRO. It is the FRO’s mandate to enforce the order. The enforcement takes place by immediate garnishment of the payor’s source of income (yes, they will contact your employer). The payments are withdrawn from the source of income and deposited into the recipient’s bank account.

Family Responsibility Office’s Enforcement Powers

When a payor goes into child or spousal support arrears (ie. is getting behind on support payments), the FRO has the authority to (non-exhaustive list):

  • seize the payor’s bank account;
  • ssuspend the payor’s driver’s license;
  • ssuspend the payor’s passport;
  • sseize the payor’s assets;
  • shave the payor imprisoned, in the most serious cases.

Reciprocal Jurisdictional Enforcement of Support

Further, the FRO have reciprocal enforcement agreements with a number of countries throughout the world.

These agreements provide that the reciprocating countries will cooperate with the FRO in Canada to locate the payor, seize his wages, salary, or even have him, or her, arrested. In other words, one cannot run from the FRO, unless he or she chooses to relocate to a non-reciprocating jurisdiction.

Effect of Bankruptcy on Owing Support

Also, personal or corporate bankruptcy will not relieve a payor from his or her child or spousal support obligations. The only way to eliminate, or manage, support arrears is to negotiate with the recipient, or convince the court of the payor’s inability to pay.

Support Enforcement Litigation

Such litigation can become quite complex, particularly with self-employed individuals.

Typically, the support payor will allege that he or she earns substantially less income than what is set out in the order. The support recipient will take the position that the payor is earning cash, hiding income, or is purposely underemployed, in order to avoid his or her support obligations. The payor is then placed in a position where he or she must prove what he or she does not earn, ie, prove a negative.

Please contact me at 613.841.9099 ext. 1 in order to schedule a free, confidential, initial consultation.

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