Child Support Enforcement Program in Ontario

Child Support Enforcement Program in Ontario

How to Work With The Family Responsibility Office (FRO)

Anyone new to paying or receiving child support in Ontario may be asking themselves, what does the Family Responsibility Office do? The Family Responsibility Office, or FRO, is tasked with overseeing child support in Ontario and making sure support payments are made. The Office enforces child support orders and any support agreement contained in the domestic contract filed with the courts.

A support obligation is registered with FRO Ontario. That’s the first step. Then, the Family Responsibility Office acts as an intermediary for payments. A support payor pays FRO, usually done in the form of garnishing wages. Then, it is FRO who forwards the money owed to the recipient parent. This arrangement continues until both parties express, in writing, to withdraw from the services of FRO. Otherwise, the Family Responsibility Office continues its work to enforce child support in Ontario and to ensure that payments are made by and provided to the appropriate parties.

Different Ways FRO Can Collect Unpaid Support

The Family Responsibility Office of Ontario has a few different ways they can collect child support payments. This applies if payments are not being made. FRO is granted authority as a primary actor in Ontario child support enforcement.

  • Garnish a payor’s bank account or 50% of an account the payor holds jointly.
  • Garnish a payor’s wages or government funds received including, but not limited to, Canada Pension Plan benefits, employment insurance, income tax refunds, or worker’s compensation.

How the Family Responsibility Office works, it is also within their rights to do other things to ‘motivate’ a payor to make their child support payments, including suspending their driver’s license, reporting the payor to a credit bureau, suspending their passport, suspending federal licenses such as a pilot license, registering a lien against a payor’s personal property, issuing a writ for seizure and sale of property, reporting a payor to professional organizations they may be a member too, seizing lottery winnings, starting a default hearing, and/or making an order against anyone helping the payor hide income.

The most common of those that FRO will use is the suspension of a driver’s license. They are required to give 30 days’ notice prior to suspending a license. A payor will not that without a driver’s license, understandably, it will be more difficult for them to work and earn any income.

If FRO does not have the option to use the aforementioned strategies to have a payor resume making child support payments, the Office can have the payor brought back to court and be found in contempt of the support order. This could result in a hefty fine or even imprisonment.

Child Support Payors: What You Should Know

How to Make Support Payments

Child support guidelines in Ontario necessitate that a support payor should have updated information registered with the Family Responsibility Office. From there, FRO will work with you deducting what is owed for child support and handling the transfer of funds on your behalf, ensuring the recipient is accommodated within the parameters of the court order issued.

If there aren’t any issues, this arrangement continues. If there do come up issues, it is very important that you, the payor, respond. Can FRO take money from your bank account – absolutely, it is within their right to do so. This is why if you know you are going to fall behind on payments, call the Office ahead and arrange a payment plan.

If you receive a notice of suspension due to non-payment, you have 30 days as the payor to contact FRO and enter in a payment plan, apply for a refraining order, or pay the arrears.

How it Works for Payors Who Are Employed

For a payor who is employed, the process is fairly simple for paying child support in Ontario. FRO receives permission from the Ontario courts in a support order to send a support deduction notice to your employer. The employer then deducts the support owed from your net pay and it’s registered with FRO. These become automatic deductions you will see on your paycheque.

It may require some time to set up this process of automatic deductions. Please note that, in the interim, a payor will be required to send support payments directly to the Family Responsibility Office.

How it Works for Payors Who Are Self-Employed, Unemployed, And/or Not On A Regular Payroll

If you are self-employed, unemployed, or do not have a regular payroll, evidently, support payments cannot be deducted as they would with a traditional employer. In all of these examples, a payor must pay the FRO directly. This can be done in several ways.

You can pay through a pre-authorized debit from your bank account. To do this, a payor must complete a preauthorized debit application for payors form and either mail it or fax it to this address:

Family Responsibility Office
Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
PO Box 200, Station A
Oshawa, Ontario
L1H 0C5
Fax: 416-240-2401

A second option is to make your support payments through your bank just like you do pay a bill. The Family Responsibility Office is a registered payee with most banks and credit unions, allowing you to register payments this way either through online banking or telephone banking.

Just like you would be paying a bill, go to your online banking section for bills and add ‘Family Responsibility Office’ as a payee. For the account number, you enter in your Family Responsibility Office case number. It is 7 digits long and always starts with either a ‘0’ or ‘1’.

A third option is to pay with either a cheque or money order. In this case, you will want to mail it in to the following address:

Family Responsibility Office
Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
PO Box 2204, Station P
Toronto, Ontario
M5S 3E9

When sending in a cheque or money order, be sure to include the 7-digit case number. You will also want to put down your full name on all payments and in any correspondence with the Family Responsibility Office. Please note that if you do not include this information – your case number and full name on the cheque – it could result in being unable to process the payment. If this happens, you will be at risk of enforcement action. For this reason, it isn’t a bad idea to check in after a cheque has been sent to confirm it was received.

What Are Alternative Payment Orders?

In limited circumstances, a judge may grant a support payor the ability to pay by an alternative method other than automatic income deductions. They are not granted without reason and are subject to the court’s permission.

If you want to arrange for an alternative payment order, you must fill out the alternative payment order form prior to the assigned court date. Please note that there is no guarantee an alternative payment order will be granted. It is at the judge’s discretion. If you or the support recipient has a divorce lawyer in Toronto, they can aid in completing the rest of the document based on what the judge decides. If there is no lawyer involved, a court clerk can complete the rest of the form in the same manner.

What to Do If You Need to Pay Arrears

Most child support payors pay in full and on time. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons, some fall behind. If you fall behind, the money that is owed is called ‘arrears’.

If you fall behind, there’s no reason to panic. Just give FRO a call and, together, a voluntary payment plan can be set up. FRO will work with you to pay down the amount you owe while subsequently paying ongoing support. FRO can help with overdue payments in a big way and aren’t a resource to be ignored.

If you’re wondering, can you go to jail in Ontario for not paying child support, the answer is yes.

What You Should Do When Support Payments End

In general, a payor will continue making payments until the Family Responsibility Office advises them in writing to stop.

There is no automatic end date for child support payments in Ontario. These payments do not stop when a child turns 18, for example. That said, a specific date or event may be identified in a support order or domestic contract that outlines when to stop paying child support. A common event usually referred to as a ‘terminating event’, could be something like a child starting full-time work, a child leaving for post-secondary, or if the support recipient gets remarried.

If a date or event is not identified, it is up to the payor and recipient to jointly decide when to end support payments. If there is an agreement to end child support payments, notify FRO. Keep the Office informed. If there is a court order outlining when support is to end, share that with the Family Responsibility Office as well. FRO is there to help both the support payor and support recipient, not taking either’s side.

Alternatively, if you, the payor, believe support should end or has ended, you can complete an application to discontinue enforcement of ongoing support and mail the document to the following address:

Family Responsibility Office

Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services

PO Box 200, Station A

Oshawa, Ontario

L1H 0C5

Fax: 416-240-2401

Lastly, if there is a disagreement on when to end these payments, how to stop child support in Ontario then becomes a matter that has to be taken before the courts for a judge to decide.

Child Support Recipients: Things You Need to Know

Receiving Your First Payment

Assuming there is no issue with the payor or any other conflicts disturbing the enforcement of payments, a recipient can expect to have their first child and spousal support in 30-60 days of registration. If the payor lives outside of Ontario, if they have not yet made payments, or if the Family Responsibility Office has yet to notify their employer, it could potentially take longer. Payments are usually issued by direct deposit within 48 hours of receiving the funds from the payor. If a payor issues a payment to you directly, notify FRO immediately as all support payments are required to come through this office.

What to Do If You Haven’t Received Your Support Payment

If you are a registered support recipient and were expecting a child support payment but still haven’t received it, contact FRO. Do not go directly to the payor. A FRO representative can advise if a payment was issued and is delayed or if there was an issue with the payor.

A child support payment that’s not yet received could also be down to a technical issue or bank information that is not fully updated.

If you do call and are notified that the payor is in arrears, you can fill out a Statement of Arrears which will outline how much is owing, including any support owed from before the support order was registered if there is any. This is to be submitted to the Office and will be distributed accordingly.

Please note that if you share custody or are a parent with your former spouse, you do not have any right to limit, prevent, or interfere with your partner’s parenting time with the children because they have stopped paying support.

How to Get Information About Your Support Payments With FRO Online

FRO Online is an excellent resource and very easy to use for support recipients. This is the quickest way to get information about support payments as well as provide updates on case status, outstanding arrears, current obligations, and active enforcement.

After you register for FRO Online, you will receive an enrollment letter which will need to be completed before your account is fully active. Once you have access, you have this new self-service option available to you that not only can provide information on your case and support payments but is also a portal through which you can send questions, information, and documents.

To sign up, once you have your enrollment ID, all you have left to do is confirm a few vital pieces of information. You will need your 7-digit case number, date of birth, and current mailing address. From registering for the enrollment letter to getting set up with the account, it can take a few weeks to get everything registered.

With a FRO Online account, you take a lot of the guesswork out of wondering why support payments haven’t shown up, when they’re coming, and can get a lot of information or questions answered without having to call in or play phone tag with a representative.

How to Enforce Support Across Provinces And Countries

You may think child support enforcement is more complicated when a payor is in another province or country. Not quite. FRO has agreements with all Canadian provinces and territories, every state in the United States, and over thirty countries. All support orders in these areas are registered through FRO and are enforced in the same manner as they would be if they were ordered by an Ontario court. Alternatively, if the support order is made in Ontario but the payor moves to another area outside of Ontario, the Family Responsibility Office of Ontario still is in charge of enforcement to the same degree.