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How does the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) enforce child support?

The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) is a government agency that enforces child support and spousal support. The FRO collects support directly from the person who has to pay support, keeps a record of the amounts paid, and then pays that amount to the person who has to get support.

If the payor parent misses payments, the FRO can only take action if you have a:

  • court order
  • separation agreement that is filed with the court and registered with the FRO for enforcement
  • Notice of Calculation filed by the government

For example, the FRO can take money from the payor parent's bank account, suspend their driver's licence, or start a court case that can put them in jail.

The FRO can help collect money from a payor parent who lives in Canada, every state in the United States, and approximately 30 other countries that Ontario has an agreement with. These are called reciprocating jurisdictions.

If Ontario doesn't have an agreement with the country where the payor parent lives, the FRO cannot help you collect support. You will have to use the laws of the country where the payor lives. You can talk to a lawyer who may be able to help you do this.

Some people choose not to involve the FRO. It takes time for them to process the paper work and start enforcing payments. Or, if you and your partner get along well and you don’t expect problems, you may not need the FRO’s help.

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Register with the FRO

The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) enforces child support payments in a:

  • court order
  • separation agreement that is filed with the court and registered with the FRO for enforcement
  • Notice of Calculation filed by the government

They cannot enforce verbal agreements.

You have a court order or Notice of Calculation

If you have a court order, the court automatically sends the order, the Support Deduction Order Information Form, and the Support Deduction Order to the FRO.

If you have a Notice of Calculation, the government automatically sends it to the FRO.

The FRO writes to the payor parent's employer or any other place where they receive income. The FRO tells the employer to deduct child support from the payor's cheque and send it to the FRO. The FRO then sends the money to the parent receiving support.

You have a separation agreement

Some people make a separation agreement without going to court and later need help enforcing it.

To get the FRO to enforce your separation agreement, you must:

1. Attach your most current separation agreement to a Form 26B: Affidavit for Filing Domestic Contract or Paternity Agreement.

2. Take it to the local courthouse. You can file your agreement only at the Ontario Court of Justice or the Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice. You cannot file your agreement at other locations of the Superior Court of Justice.

3. Register it with the FRO.

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Make support payments through the FRO

If a parent is paying child support through the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), they make their support payments directly to the FRO, not to the other parent. Once the FRO receives the money, they send it to the parent receiving support within 24 to 48 hours.

Make sure all payments go through the FRO. If the payor parents gives a support payment directly to the parent receiving support, it will not show up on the account at the FRO.

The FRO charges the payor parent $100 every time they have to adjust the account so that it shows the right amount of support that has been paid. But, if the parent receiving support says they did not get the payment, the FRO will not credit the account.

Paying support through the FRO

If the payor parent is employed and on a regular payroll, the FRO can take payments directly from their income. This is called garnishing wages. But these automatic deductions take time to set up. And, until they are set up, the payor parent must send their child support payments directly to the FRO.

If the payor parent is self-employed, unemployed, or not on a regular payroll, they must pay the FRO directly by:

  • Making pre-authorized payments from their bank account. They need to fill out the Preauthorized Debit Application.
  • Paying online by adding the FRO as a payee. The account number is the FRO case number. A FRO case number always starts with 0 or 1 and is 7 digits long.
  • Writing a cheque or money order payable to: The Director, Family Responsibility Office.

Payor parents should always include the 7-digit FRO case number and their full name on the payments and in all letters to the FRO.

And payor parents should keep a record of child support payments. The FRO does not issue year-end statements.

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Get help from the FRO

You receive support

If you haven't received a support payment in more than 30 days and your separation agreement or court order is being enforced by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), contact them right away.

You pay support

If you don't make your child support payments, the FRO can:

  • Take money from your bank accounts.
  • Take money from your retirement savings.
  • Take money from your employment insurance benefits, income tax rebates, and some government payments.
  • Take money from your wages or other income.
  • Suspend your driver's licence.
  • Suspend your Canadian passport.
  • Register the support order as a "charge" against your property. This means you can't sell it or transfer ownership until you pay any support owing.
  • Report you to the credit bureau which may damage your credit rating.
  • Take any Ontario lottery prize over $1,000.
  • Request information about your employment, finances, and address from any person or public body.
  • Take your employer to court for not following a Support Deduction Order.
  • Start a default hearing. At the hearing, you have to explain to a judge why you are behind in payments. This may result in up to 180 days in jail.

So, if you fall behind in payments, it's important to contact the FRO as soon as you can.

The FRO can help you work out a voluntary payment plan where you agree to a payment schedule you can afford. The FRO usually requires that you make your monthly support payments plus an additional amount toward the support owing.

If you're bankrupt, you still owe support. The FRO will be a creditor with a claim against your estate. They will enforce the ongoing support after you declare bankruptcy.

If you haven't made a support payment in the last 6 months and the FRO has done everything to locate you, they may post personal information about you on goodparentspay.com. This is a website that asks the public’s help to find people who owe support and have gone missing.

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Avoid a default hearing or driver’s licence suspension

If you're the payor parent and you're behind on your child support payments, the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) may start a default hearing or ask the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to suspend your driver’s licence.

You can avoid this by contacting the FRO right away with your 7-digit FRO case number. You can either:

  • Bring your payments up to date.
  • Work out a voluntary payment plan where you agree to a payment schedule you can afford. The FRO usually requires that you make your monthly support payments plus an additional amount toward the support owing.

Default hearing

If you get a notice of a default hearing, you must go to court on that date. You have to explain to a judge why you're behind in your payments. The judge makes a decision called a default order. It can make you:

  • Pay all or part of the money you owe through regular payments over time.
  • Pay all of the money you owe by a certain date.
  • Start a motion to change your agreement or court order.
  • Go to jail for up to 180 days.

If you do not go to your court date, the court can have you arrested. Or, the court can make a default order against you.

Driver's licence suspension

The FRO will mail you a document called a First Notice of Driver’s Licence Suspension. Your driver's licence will be suspended 30 days after the date in the notice. The deadline date to respond is set out in the notice.

You can respond by asking the court for a refraining order. A refraining order is a court order that stops the FRO from having your driver's license suspended for a short period of time.

You cannot get a refraining order after the deadline in the First Notice has expired.

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End payments through the FRO

Withdraw your case

If you and your partner agree that you don’t want the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to handle your payments anymore, you must both fill out a Notice of Withdrawal Form.

In some cases, the parent receiving support can do this without the payor parent's consent by filling out a Notice by Support Recipient of Unilateral Withdrawal Form. For example, where the payor parent is paying the parent receiving support directly.

If child support payments go through Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program, a caseworker must also agree to withdraw the case. If they don't agree, you must go to court to have your support agreement or order changed.

If you later decide to re-register with the FRO, you fill out a Notice of Re-Filing Form. There is a $50 re-filing fee. And, if you want the FRO to enforce any payments that were missed since your case was closed, you need to fill out a Statement of Arrears Form. This form tells the FRO about the amount of unpaid child support.

End support payments

If you're paying child support and think payments should end, fill out the Notice to End Support and tell the FRO why you think it should end. The FRO will contact your partner.

If your partner…

Then the FRO…

doesn't agree that child support should end,

will continue enforcing the court order or written agreement.

doesn't respond to the FRO,

may stop enforcing payments or enforce a lower amount of support.

doesn't respond to the FRO but later tells the FRO that payments should not have ended,

may start enforcing payments again.

agrees in writing to end support,

will let you know in writing that you can stop making support payments.

The FRO can't change any of the terms in your separation agreement or court order. They only try to make sure support is being paid. So if your partner doesn't agree to end support, or if you want to change the amount of support, you have to go to court.

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Reviewed: 
August, 2016