“My ex-husband is not complying with the provisions of our divorce judgment concerning payment of child support and spousal support. What are my options?”
A support payor has a legal obligation to pay support to a support recipient. If the payor in your case is not complying with this obligation, then he is in breach of a court order. Court-ordered support payments are, in most cases, enforced by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), which has an exclusive mandate to enforce support. When a support order is made by the court, it is the function of the FRO to ensure that payments flow from the payor to the recipient. The most common way that support flows from a payor to a recipient is by way of garnishment of wages or other income source. A notice of the support order is sent to the payor’s employer, and that employer has a legal obligation to deduct the required amount of monthly support from the payor’s wages. The payment is then provided to the recipient by the FRO, either by direct deposit or by cheque in the mail. Self-employed payors generally submit their payments directly to the FRO via bank transfers or payments through the mail. All court orders for support are sent to the FRO for enforcement, however parties may choose to opt out or “withdraw” from the program such that the payor must pay the recipient directly.
If your support order is being enforced and you are not receiving payments, you should contact the FRO immediately. The payor may have changed jobs or perhaps his employer is not collecting the funds from his wages. The payor may have lost his job without advising the FRO of this fact. In the case of a self-employed payor, it may be that he is just not sending in his payments. Whatever the case, when a payor does not make support payments on time, or when a payor does not pay the required amount of support, the FRO is mandated by law to take action to collect the money that is owed to you. The FRO can have the payor’s GST and income tax returns diverted, issue a writ of seizure and sale against their property, have their driver’s license suspended, and in serious cases of default, have a payor incarcerated. The Director of the FRO decides as to when such enforcement measures are taken and it is not open to a recipient to commence enforcement proceedings. It is, however, a good idea for you to advise the FRO should you obtain and information regarding the payor’s income source or a change in his income status.
It may be that at one time you and the support payor agreed to withdraw from FRO enforcement, however even if you have opted out of the program in the past, as a support recipient you are entitled to re-enroll for enforcement at any time.
More information regarding the FRO can be obtained via the Government of Ontario website or at the Family Law Information Centre at your local family court.
Piyali M. Kundu is an Associate Lawyer at the Toronto law firm of Nathens Siegel, LLP where she practices exclusively in the area of family law.