What is the role of the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) when it comes to child and spousal support?

March 18, 2024 Plat Simionati

What is the role of the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) when it comes to child and spousal support?

Disclaimer: This article aims to provide educational information surrounding child and spousal support. It is not intended to serve as legal advice. Consult with a lawyer and exercise your discretion before taking action based on the information provided in the blog.

One of the most contentious issues when it comes to separation and divorce surrounds paying child and spousal support. Until the Family Responsibility Office was formed, it was up to the recipient to ensure they received the support they were owed. This blog article discusses the role of the Family Responsibility Office, how it is involved with your separation and divorce and what kind of enforcement actions it can take. 

What does the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) do?

The Family Responsibility Office (or FRO) is a provincial government agency that oversees and enforces spousal and child support orders. It operates under Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services and was established under the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act. 

Its primary goal is to collect and distribute support payments, ensuring they are made consistently and on time. When the payor fails to do so, the FRO has the authority to take action to enforce these court-ordered support payments. The FRO’s jurisdiction is not limited to Ontario. If one person lives outside Ontario, through reciprocity agreements the FRO can continue enforcing a support order. Payments can be collected throughout Canada, the United States and over 30 other countries. 

The Family Responsibility Office cannot amend the amount of support to be paid unless a court order or agreement is filed. 

How does the FRO get involved with child and spousal support payments?

There are two ways that the FRO would become involved: following a court order or if you register to use their services. 

FRO’s role following a support order 

When an Ontario Court issues a support order, it simultaneously issues a Support Deduction Order (SDO). It will include the support recipient and payor’s contact information, as well as the payor’s Social Insurance Number and their employer’s name and address. This SDO authorizes the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to compel the payor’s income source(s) to deduct support payments directly from their income.

The FRO staff use the information from the SDO and their enforcement powers to make sure support payments are collected promptly from the payor’s income sources. You will receive a case number and welcome package from the FRO shortly after issuing your support order. 

FRO’s role when there’s a domestic contract

A domestic contract, such as a separation agreement, will contain provisions about support. If you want to receive or pay support through the FRO, you must first file your domestic contract with the family court. 

Then, the contract would be filed with the Family Responsibility Office, along with an Affidavit for Filing. The FRO will send you a registration package to enforce your agreement’s terms.      

If you do not want to use the FRO’s services

If you no longer want FRO to process your payments and want to handle them privately, you can withdraw. However, both parties must agree to this in writing. 

How does the FRO collect support payments? 

The most common method of collecting payments is by garnishing wages. It can also set up an automatic deduction from the paying parent’s pension or other income sources. Additionally, they can intercept tax refunds or redirect funds from government payments to cover any arrears.

If your former partner is self-employed, they can make arrangements to pay the FRO directly, through their bank account or by check or money order.

How does the FRO enforce payments? 

The FRO has many options if your former partner does not fulfill their support obligations. These include: 

  • Garnishing their bank account or money they might receive from the government (such as EI and OAS benefits, tax refunds or CPP); 
  • Suspend their driver’s license, passport or other licenses
  • Place a lien on their property
  • Seize any lottery winnings  

In rare cases, the FRO can even arrest and imprison the payor. 

Understanding your support obligations with Plat Simionati LLP

As you navigate the complexities of support payments, having the right guidance on your side is crucial. At Plat Simionati LLP, we understand the intricacies of family law and can provide personalized assistance and information about your support.

Whether you need help understanding support orders, dealing with FRO processes, or seeking legal advice, our experienced team is here. Don’t hesitate to contact Plat Simionati LLP; we’re committed to helping you find the best solutions for your family’s well-being.