Separation and Divorce: Spousal Support
How is spousal support enforced?
A provincial government office called the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) can enforce support payments. Separation agreements can be filed with the court and registered with the FRO. The court automatically files all support orders with the FRO.
The FRO tells the payor spouse to make all support payments to the FRO. When the FRO receives a payment, it sends a cheque to the recipient spouse, or deposits the money directly into the recipient's bank account.
If any payments are missed, the FRO can take action to enforce the order or agreement. To do this, the FRO needs up-to-date information about the payor. This includes their full name, address, social insurance number, place of employment or business, income, and any property they own. The recipient puts this information on a "Support Deduction Information Form" which is available at the court. This form must be given to the FRO along with the support order or agreement. It is important to update this form whenever the information changes.
Sometimes recipient spouses withdraw from the FRO because it is easier to receive payments directly from the other spouse. But if there are problems later and they want to re-file with the FRO, they usually have to pay a fee.
The FRO has different ways to collect unpaid support from the payor. It can:
- have the payments automatically deducted from their wages or other income (for example, sales commissions, Employment Insurance, Workers' Compensation, income tax refunds, severance pay, and pensions),
- register a charge (a lien) against their personal property or real estate, so they cannot sell it or transfer ownership without paying the amount owing,
- take money from (garnish) their bank account, or garnish up to half of a joint bank account that they have with someone else, or
- make an order against anyone who is helping them hide income or assets that should go toward support.
The FRO can also put pressure on spouses who do not make their support payments by:
- suspending their driver's licence,
- reporting them to credit bureaus so that it will be difficult for them to get loans, or
- cancelling their passports.
The FRO can help you collect money from a payor who lives in Canada, the United States, or another country that Ontario has an agreement with. If Ontario does not have an agreement with the country where the payor lives, the FRO cannot help you collect support.
The FRO cannot change the amount that the order or agreement says the payor has to pay. If either spouse thinks that a change in the situation justifies a change in the support amount, they can try to make a new agreement or go to court to try to get the support order changed.
To contact the Family Responsibility Office, visit their website at www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english and click on "Family Responsibility Office", or call:
Toronto area: 416-326-1818