Fifteen Tips About the Family Responsibility Office
Has your court order, separation agreement, or paternity agreement dealing with support been filed with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO)?
Navigating the process of support enforcement in Ontario can be a confusing, frustrating and sometimes frightening process, but keep the following helpful tips in mind whether you are a support payor or a support recipient.
- Read the FRO website.
- The FRO website (http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/familyResponsibility/index.aspx) has basic information on its site along with important FRO forms like Notices of Withdrawal and Registration for Direct Deposit.
- Don’t throw anything out!
- If you receive unexpected mail from the Ontario government don’t bury your head in the sand and throw it out! It may contain important information about the enforcement of your case with FRO.
- Don’t ignore FRO.
- Regardless of whether you are a support payor or a support recipient, don’t ignore FRO. Ignoring FRO can have significant consequences for your case, which can include increased enforcement or stopped support payments.
- Keep FRO posted about major changes.
- Whether you are a support payor or support recipient, if you change your contact information, inform FRO. Not letting FRO know about a change in contact information may result in stopped support payments or rising arrears. If a child is no longer entitled to support under the support order, inform FRO as soon as possible.
- Be civil, patient, courteous and persistent with FRO.
- It should go without saying that civility, courtesy and patience are vital when dealing with FRO and can only help your case. Patience is especially important, but persistence may also be necessary.
- FRO cannot give you information about the other party.
- Because of privacy laws FRO cannot give you certain information about the other party, including their contact information.
- You can have your lawyer or another person contact FRO on your behalf.
- You can authorize someone else to help you with contacting FRO. You will need to complete, sign, and send in a Third Party Authorization form, which can be found on the FRO website.
- FRO can enforce more than support.
- Besides child and spousal support FRO can also enforce section 7 expenses (special and extraordinary expenses), health and life insurance premiums, interest on support orders, and court costs if it is in a support order or agreement.
- FRO enforces support orders, but cannot change them.
- If you think support should be increased or decreased you may need to change the order FRO is enforcing, whether that means filing a new agreement with the court and FRO after negotiating with the other party or going to court to change it.
- FRO can be slow, but once it starts moving on your case it can have a significant impact on your life.
- FRO’s case load is enormous so they may move slowly on your case at first. However, be aware that once they begin moving on your case their enforcement may be a lot quicker and more significant. For example, you have only 30 days to respond to an intention to suspend driver’s licence letter.
- FRO has a large arsenal of tools at its disposal, both in and out of court.
- FRO can take many steps to enforce a support order, including reporting you to credit bureaus, garnishing lottery winnings, garnishing your pay cheque, garnishing your income tax return, asking the Ministry of Transportation to suspend your driver’s licence and asking the federal government to suspend your passport.
- One of the most significant steps FRO can take is to initiate a default hearing. This is an important step for FRO before it can ask a court for a jail term to compel a support payor to pay support. If you have received notice of a default hearing, it is advisable to immediately consult a lawyer about your options.
- If FRO is enforcing your support order don’t pay or receive money unless through FRO.
- Needless complications arise if you pay support monies or accept money without FRO knowing, such as incorrect arrears, which cannot be easily adjusted and enforcement action arising from incorrect arrears.
- Keep records of amounts of support paid or received.
- If you have paid support to the support recipient directly keep track of those amounts carefully and make sure there is good proof and that proof indicates that it is for support. Cash is one of the most unreliable methods of payment of support.
- If you have received money from the support payor directly keep track of the amounts and whether or not they are for support. If you received these amounts while FRO is enforcing your support order or agreement be aware that if you continue to do so FRO may stop enforcement on your case.
- FRO cannot get back overpaid monies.
- If you are a support payor and end up overpaying support, FRO cannot help you get back the money from the support recipient. At most you will end up with a “credit” on your account, so future support payments will be deducted from the “credit”.
- Disputing arrears and need more information? Request a Director’s Statement of Arrears.
- If you are disputing the amount of arrears FRO says you owe or are owed, the Director’s Statement of Arrears can be a helpful tool to figure out amounts. It is a statement of account which keeps track of the arrears in your case, including monies in/out, periodic support obligations and various adjustments.
- A Director’s Statement of Arrears may be requested on the phone or by faxing a form which can be found on the FRO website. The first one is free, but subsequent Director’s Statements of Arrears costs $25 each.
Keep in mind the above tips are only general information about your relationship with FRO. If you require more information or advice, consult a lawyer about your options when it comes to support enforcement, as your case may be different depending your circumstances.