Family Responsibility Office (FRO)
What is FRO?
Family Responsibility Office (the "FRO") is Ontario's maintenance enforcement program(MEP) that administers and enforces child support payments and spousal support payments in the province.
In Ontario, all support orders are automatically filed with the Family Responsibility Office- FRO. Unless the parties agree to withdraw from FRO, all support payments must be made to the FRO Office. FRO has a duty to monitor payments and take enforcement action to collect all monies that are due. FRO cannot change the support order or negotiate a reduction in arrears. To change the amount that FRO is attempting to enforce requires a change in the support order ( Motion to Change ).
FRO does not recalculate the amount of support payable based on Income Tax Returns under the Child Support Guidelines. The parties must return to Court to make these annual adjustments ( Motion to Change ).
To contact FRO go to www.thefro.ca FRO does not have email access. FRO does have a fax number : 416-240-2401. The FRO phone number is 1-416-326-1817 or 1-800-267-4330.
Who we are
Michael J. Marra is a family law lawyer who represents individuals who want to change their FRO payments. His office is not the Family Responsibility Office.
How we can help
The law offices of Michael J. Marra Professional Corporation specialize in support payment change cases and FRO problems. To arrange a consultation to review your options please email Mr. Marra directly mjmarra6(at)gmail.com Mr Marra knows the system and has the expertise to help you obtain a fair and effective solution to your support payment or FRO problem.
The authority of the Family Responsibility Office
FRO is required to collect all child support payments and back child support or child support arrears in separation agreements or divorce or family court orders that are filed with the Family Responsibility Office.
The FRO can collect money directly from the payor, from his or her income source or sources, or by way of writs or liens filed against property or seizure of bank accounts.
If there is a real and substantial dispute between the parties a Motion to Change is necessary to have the issue determined by a Court. While the Motion to Change is proceeding FRO may continue to take enforcement action. The extent of that enforcement action should be addressed with the FRO Office. The Superior Court of Justice has recently ruled on the issue of the Duty of FRO in the case of Emhecht v FRO. A Case Commentary prepared by Mr. Marra for the 6th Annual Family Law Summit, Law Society of Upper Canada, May 2012 on the Emhecht ruling should be reviewed as well.
Filing support orders with the FRO
All support orders made in Ontario are automatically filed by the court that makes the order with the Family Responsibility Office. It takes some time for the order to become registered with the FRO office, and when that occurs a case number is assigned and the parties are contacted. The support payor is obligated to make payments to the FRO office at that time.
Making support payments to the FRO
Payments can be made by way of internet banking, telephone banking or payments made directly to the FRO office. Payments by way of cheque or money order are discouraged as they can lead to delays and tracking problems. Obviously, electronic bank payments are the most efficient to track.
It is critical that the case number be written on all payments made to the FRO.
Support arrears collection: FRO's enforcement powers
The FRO has the following enforcement powers in regards to collecting late support payments:
- Payroll deduction or garnishment of wages;
- Seizure of bank accounts, including joint accounts;
- Report a payor in arrears to a credit bureau to make it more difficult for them to obtain loans or other credit while they owe family support. The report will stay on the support payor's credit rating for seven years;
- Suspension of passports and federal licences;
- Seizure of income tax Refunds and GST rebates:
- Garnishment of 50% of Employment Insurance, CPP, OAS and other federal periodic payments;
- Suspension of a defaulting payor's driver's licence;
- Default hearings with jail terms possible for up to 180 days.
Unless the payments are current and up to date, the FRO will send a Support Deduction Order to the payor's income source (e.g. employer) as soon as the case is opened.
If the case falls into arrears, the enforcement office will send correspondence to the payor indicating all of the remedies that are available to collect the payments and invite the payor to begin making payments voluntarily.
The enforcement staff will also immediately initiate a number of "passive enforcement" steps. These include forwarding the support deduction order to an employer, the federal government for EI, GST, CPP and income tax refund seizures and notification of arrears to the credit bureau.
If these passive enforcement steps do not produce payment, the enforcement staff are authorized to initiate aggressive enforcement action including driver's licence and passport suspension and default hearings.
FRO & support payment issues: your options
It is important to understand that the Family Responsibility Office exists to enforce the Court's Order or Agreement that is filed with the FRO. If you disagree with the amount of support or other provisions that are related to the support order or agreement, your complaint is not with the FRO, Ontario's maintenance enforcement program (MEP). Repeated attempts to contact the FRO with respect to those kinds of issues will not produce any resolution. The remedy is to return to the court with a Motion to Change (you will likely need a lawyer for this), or to the bargaining table with the support recipient to achieve a new support arrangement. Once the order is varied, it can be filed with the FRO and then the FRO will be bound by the new Agreement or Order and enforce it by its terms.