The Family Responsibility Office -- What does it do?
A lot of times, when a Court orders a person to pay child support or spousal support, they will also order the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to enforce the support. The enforcement will keep going until both parties agree to withdraw from the FRO and deal with paying and collecting support themselves, or until there is a new Order stopping support.
The FRO can also enforce support that is set out in a Separation Agreement if that Agreement is filed with the Court using the appropriate paperwork. If a party files their Agreement with the Court for enforcement by the FRO, this enforcement will also keep going until the parties agree to withdraw from the FRO or until there is a court order stopping support.
One thing that the FRO does not do is decide the right amount of support. Only the Courts or the parties themselves can do that. This means that, if the person paying support has a change in income, the amount of support that FRO collects will still stay the same until there is a new Court order or Agreement filed.
In most cases, the FRO just acts as a third party between the person paying support and the person receiving it. Rather than paying the recipient directly, the person paying support pays the FRO and the FRO forwards the payment to the recipient. Each party will make arrangements with the FRO to pay, or receive, their support.
If the person paying support does not pay their support properly, however, the FRO has a number of ways of enforcing the support Order or Agreement. These include:
* Garnishing their wages
* Taking money that they would otherwise get from the Government (like tax refunds, for example)
* Putting liens on their property
* Taking their lottery winnings
* Taking them to court
* Suspending their driver's licence or passport
A lot of the options open to the FRO to enforce support orders will not be used unless there is consistent failure to pay support and the person paying support doesn't make an effort to pay their support arrears. If the person paying has not paid for a long period of time and does not cooperate with the FRO in setting up a payment plan, then the FRO will move to their more drastic measures.
If the FRO has to take a person to court, they do have the option of asking the court to put that person in jail for up to 180 days for their failure to pay support.
The FRO is tasked with enforcing court orders for support and making sure that families get the support payments that they need. The FRO's enforcement options clearly have serious consequences for those who aren't paying their support. This reflects the importance of what the FRO is tasked with doing.
Kristen Morris is a lawyer at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. Should you have any questions for Ask A Lawyer, please direct them to the Simcoe Reformer or ask a lawyer of your choice. For more articles, visit the Library page at www.cobbjones.ca.