Getting to Know the Family Responsibility Office: An Introduction – by Maia Rabinovich
The Family Responsibility Office – commonly known as “FRO” – is a provincial government organization responsible for collecting child support and spousal support payments from the “payor” and depositing them with the “recipient”. There are many advantages to support payments being processed by FRO:
1. If the payor is an employee FRO can automatically deduct support payments directly from their employer and deposit the payments into the recipient’s account. This saves both parties the hassle of setting up a payment schedule and exchanging funds. It also lowers the chance of conflict between parties because no communication is necessary between the payor and the recipient for the support payment to be made.
2. FRO maintains a detailed record of every payment made and any amount owing called a Statement of Arrears, which is particularly helpful if there is ever a dispute about support payments. Either party can request the Statement of Arrears at any time or call the 24-hour automated telephone service information about the status of support payments.
3. An individual “case contact” is responsible for your file and is available to answer questions about your file.
4. Most importantly, FRO has the power to take enforcement actions against a payor who is not making support payments. This lends stability to the payor-recipient arrangement because it creates real consequences to missing support payments.
How does FRO become involved?
Where you have settled all issues with your former spouse in a separation agreement, the agreement needs to be turned into a Court Order to be registered with FRO. A lawyer can assist you in creating a “Draft Order” to be filed with the Court if you want FRO to enforce support payments.
Where you or your former spouse have started a court proceeding and an Order for support is made by the Court it will automatically be forwarded to FRO for enforcement.
Afterwards, if both parties agree that they do not want to have the support payments processed through FRO they can sign a Notice of Withdrawal and fax it to their case contact.
If you are the support payor and have always historically sent the recipient post-dated cheques the support Order will automatically be sent to FRO by the Court, and FRO may deduct support payments from your employer in the same month that the recipient cashes a post-dated cheque. Should this situation arise you will need to have the recipient sign an acknowledgement that they have received a double payment for the month in order to have your account credited. If the recipient will not sign the acknowledgement you should consult a lawyer to determine other steps that you can take.
What happens when the payor fails to make payments to FRO?
There are a number of enforcement options available to FRO when support payments stop being made by the payor. FRO has the authority to:
• garnish bank accounts;
• garnish benefits or refunds the payor is entitled to receive from the Government;
• report the payor to a credit bureau;
• suspend the payor’s driver’s license;
• suspend the payor’s passport;
• place a lien on personal property;
• issue a writ of seizure and sale for property; and
• send the payor to jail for up to 180 days.
Whether you are the support payor or the support recipient, it is important to keep in mind that payments are not optional, discretionary or subject to your circumstances. Where a support obligation exists, the government has the power to collect payment in a number of ways to satisfy your responsibility.
Non-payment is never an option, but if your circumstances have changed as a payor there are a number of steps available to change the support obligation to reflect your current situation, which will be discussed in a subsequent post.
MAIA RABINOVICH is an Associate Lawyer at BOOKMAN LAW PROFESSIONAL CORPORATION, a boutique law firm specializing in FAMILY LAW and ESTATE LITIGATION. Visit our web site at www.bookmanlaw.com. Maia can be reached at 416-488-2243, ext 29