“My ex-spouse is not complying with the provisions of our divorce judgment concerning payment of child support and spousal support. What are my options?”
There are two basic methods of enforcement: 1) where you retain counsel to enforce the order through any court in Ontario; or 2) where the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) acting under the authority of the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act of 1996, as amended, enforces the order for you.
1) You should retain counsel to discuss strategy and to communicate with your ex-spouse to encourage him or her to pay support. Your counsel may enforce the order in a provincial court. Your lawyer may recommend this method when there are assets such as houses that could be sold or transferred to you or a variation of the order is advisable. For garnishment of your ex-spouse’s wages and other income, the FRO is the recommended route.
2) Ontario courts now make a support deduction order for spousal or child support. (Note that a separation agreement can also be enforced by filing it with the court.) This order goes to the FRO, which enforces it. Your ex-spouse who receives regular wages, commissions, or other income must furnish the name and address of the income source (i.e., the employer), which is included in the order sent to the FRO. The FRO then enforces the order by garnishing the wages of your ex-spouse; they send a support deduction notice to your ex-spouse’s employer, who is then responsible for garnishing his or her wages and forwarding the required amount to the FRO, who then forwards it to you. Your ex-spouse is required to advise the FRO in the event of a change in his/her address or employer. In the event that he/she does not pay, the FRO can commence collection procedures during which your ex-spouse will have his/her wage garnished. The Federal Government will also garnish his/her federal entitlements such as UIC and tax refunds. While the FRO goal is to collect money, it does have the authority to jail non-paying spouses as well as seize property.
Note that the FRO has a very heavy case load, and it’s important for you or your lawyer to be in contact with them and to negotiate payment schedules. Using the FRO is usually less expensive than trying to enforce the order through the courts; however, you should discuss your case with counsel to determine the best enforcement method for you. Keep in mind that this answer is not to be treated as legal advice; you should seek independent legal advice before doing anything.
George C. Eyre is a family lawyer practicing in downtown Toronto.