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  • Principal Lawyer

A Harsh Reality for Those Dealing with Child and Spousal Support Enforcement in Ontario

I recently had a case that sheds light on the harsh reality of dealing with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). If you've ever been involved in a family court proceeding, chances are you've heard of it. FRO, is an agency in Ontario that handles the enforcement of child and spousal support orders. When a court orders one party to pay support, the order is sent to the FRO, it then monitors and enforces the support payments, collecting the money from the paying parent and distributing it to the receiving parent or to the government, if the receiving parent is receiving social assistance.

In this particular case, the FRO had placed a lien on a property due to unpaid spousal support. The party in question had a history of inconsistent payments. As you may know, the FRO has the authority to take a variety of enforcement actions against parents who fail to make support payments, including garnishing wages, seizing assets, suspending drivers' licenses, and reporting delinquent parents to credit bureaus.

In this case, the FRO put a lien on the party’s property. The party now finds himself in a challenging predicament as he attempts to sell his property. The FRO has informed the real estate lawyer that in order to discharge the lien, the party must pay not only the arrears but also an additional year's worth of support payments. In accordance to section 20 of the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement (FRSAE), FRO may require the payor to provide security for future spousal support payments in certain circumstances, such as when the payor has a history of not making payments on time or has substantial arrears. In other word, it has the authority to collect a security deposit.

My recent case, discussed above, highlights the challenges faced by parties dealing with the FRO in Ontario. It also underscores the importance of making timely and consistent support payments to avoid the FRO's enforcement actions. Lastly, it is essential to understand the FRO's powers and obligations to avoid unpleasant surprises such as the need to provide security deposits for future support payments.

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