This guide is meant to give you a basic understanding of the enforcement of child and spousal support orders at the Ontario Court of Justice. It is not a substitute for legal advice and assistance. You should get legal advice as soon as possible to understand your options and to protect your rights.
In this section, you will be able to find the following information:
- How the Family Responsibility Office becomes involved with your support case
- The types of enforcement measures that can be taken against a support payor
- Where to find more information, assistance and court forms
The Ontario Court of Justice hears many different types of family cases, including child and spousal support enforcement cases. The Ontario Court of Justice can enforce child and spousal support orders made in the Ontario Court of Justice and Superior Court of Justice and filed domestic contracts that are filed for enforcement.
When a court orders support for either a child or a former spouse, there are different ways for the support to be enforced. The information below explains support enforcement methods.
In support enforcement cases, the person who is required to pay support is referred to as the Payor (or support payor), and the person who is entitled to receive support is referred to as the Recipient (or support recipient). Most support enforcement documents will have the terms Payor and Recipient rather than Applicant or Respondent.
If you pay support, FRO will enforce the order and collect the payment on behalf of the recipient. This includes FRO taking enforcement steps if payments are not made.
If you are the support recipient and you are owed support, you may also take steps to collect any support that is owed to you. However, you will need to opt out of FRO enforcement if you choose to collect the support yourself. More information is below.
Properly filed domestic contracts are also enforced at the Ontario Court of Justice. Section 51 of the Family Law Act defines different types of domestic contracts which include Marriage Contracts, Cohabitation, Separation, Paternity and family Arbitration Agreements. You should speak to a lawyer to help determine what type of contract/agreement is suitable in your situation.
It is very important that you are aware of the relevant family law legislation that governs your support enforcement case. At the Ontario Court of Justice, these include the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, the Creditors’ Relief Act and the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act. Please check the legislation to make sure that you are using the latest versions of the Acts.
It is also important that you are aware of the Family Law Rules that govern the family court process. Rule 26 of the Family Law Rules addresses court-based support enforcement. You must also be aware of the court forms that you need to complete for your case. Please check the Family Law Rules and the Family Law Rules Forms to make sure that you are using the latest version of the rules and forms.
The court may also enforce a support order that was made in another Canadian province or territory, or, other select countries.
A domestic contract must be made in writing, signed by both parties and with witnesses
Information for support recipients
If you are a recipient (the person who receives support), you will be asked for your banking information so that the FRO can directly deposit your support to your bank account once they have received the money from the support payor. It is important that you update the FRO immediately if any of your contact or banking information changes.
More information about enforcing child and spousal support payments can be found on FRO’s website. You may find this information here: Enforcing child and spousal support payments | Ontario.ca
If you decide that you do not want FRO to continue to enforce your support order or support obligation in a domestic contract, it is important that you speak with a lawyer. You must notify the FRO in writing of your intention to withdraw from the FRO to enforce the order on your own.
The way spousal or child support cases are enforced when the payor or recipient is a Status or Non-Status Indian is different than regular enforcement cases. The federal Indian Act explains possible limitations and entitlements affecting support enforcement cases.
If you are a Status or Non-Status Indian involved in a support enforcement case, you should speak to a lawyer immediately and contact your FRO enforcement officer to advise them and to provide documentary confirmation of your Indian status. Information about how to find a lawyer is set out below.
Family Responsibility Office(FRO) and Support Payments
All Ontario child and spousal support court orders are filed with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) by the clerk of the court where the order was made. FRO is a Government of Ontario program that helps families get the support they are entitled to by collecting, distributing and enforcing child and spousal support payments.
When an Ontario court makes an order for spousal or child support, the FRO may send a support deduction notice to the support payor’s income source, such as the payor’s employer. The employer is required to take the amount of support that you owe from your pay and send it to FRO. FRO then gives the support to the recipient.
If you want the FRO to enforce a child or spousal support provision contained in a domestic contract, you need to file the domestic contract with the Ontario Court of Justice first. You do this by completing a Form 26B: Affidavit for Filing Domestic Contract with Court and file it with the court. After the court has accepted it for filing and have assigned a court file number, you will need to complete a FRO registration package and mail it to FRO together with copies of the Form 26B Affidavit and domestic contract.
The Ministry of the Attorney General publishes courthouse information, including addresses and phone numbers. You may find the information here: Court Addresses
If you are paying support, do not pay the support recipient directly if FRO is enforcing the support order. However, until you have been notified that your case has been opened by FRO, you will need to comply with the court order. You should make your payments through counsel or keep proof of your payments.
Once you are notified your case has been opened by FRO (and your 7-digit FRO Case Number has been provided) , make your support payment directly through them. Once FRO receives the money from the support payor they will send it to the recipient and all transactions will be recorded and reflected in your account.
Enforcement actions that the Family Responsibility Office can take
There are a number of enforcements that the FRO can use if you fall behind in your support payments. They include:
- Notice of Garnishment (including Garnishment of Bank Accounts).
- Garnishment of Federal Government Payments
- Reporting you to a Credit Bureau
- Reporting to Professional Organization
- Driver’s Licence Suspension
- Federal Licence Suspension
- Property Lien
- Charge Registered Against Real Property
- Writ of Seizure and Sale
- Lottery Winnings deductions
- Default Hearing Proceedings and Going to Jail
You should contact your FRO enforcement officer as soon as possible if you fall behind in your support payments.
You may call FRO during regular office hours at:
- Toronto: 416-326-1817
- Toll-free: 1-800-267-4334, or
- Toll-free: 1-866-545-0083
You may also sign up for FRO online to update your contact information and to receive information about your support arrears.
If the FRO decides to start an enforcement court case against you, you will be charged administrative fees.
Contacting and obtaining information about the Family Responsibility Office
To find out how to contact the Family Responsibly Office, visit their website here: Paying and receiving child and spousal support | Ontario.ca
FRO Online is an easy-to-use self-service option for FRO clients. After registering with FRO Online, you can check the status of your case, outstanding arrears (if any) your contact information, current obligations and if there are any active enforcements.
To register for FRO Online start here: Family Responsibility Office | FRO Online (gov.on.ca)
Changing your support obligations
If you are a support payor who falls behind in making support payments, you should seek legal advice as soon as you can.
The Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) organization is a community legal clinic and part of Ontario’s legal aid system. CLEO has information about different types of family cases, including how you can change a court order or domestic contract. You may find information about how to start a motion to change here: How do I change my court order? – Steps to Justice
It is important that you speak with a lawyer if you decide to start a motion to change a final order or domestic contract dealing with support obligations. A lawyer is able to give you advice about the process and what your rights and responsibilities are.
Family court forms can be found on the Ontario Court Forms website. The forms are available in English and French.
Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act
If you live in Ontario and the other person lives outside Ontario, there are two different laws that provide for interjurisdictional support processes. There are different steps and forms that you will need to fill out, depending on your situation.
More information, including guides to procedure and required forms, can be found here: Child and spousal support when one person lives outside of Ontario | Ontario.ca
Where to find more information, assistance and forms
The Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) organization is a community legal clinic and part of Ontario’s legal aid system. CLEO has prepared a variety of resources for support payors and recipients including:
- Problems Paying Child Support
- Family Responsibility Office – Information for recipients and payors
- How to Change Child Support
- What to do if your partner isn’t paying spousal support
- How spousal support is enforced
CLEO has also created Guided Pathways to help you fill out various court forms that you may need for your family law matter, including, a guided pathway for requesting a motion to change. You can use this resource to complete the required court forms for a motion to change and receive information about any additional documents that you will need such as Notice of Assessments from the Canada Revenue Agency, pay stubs or other forms of proof of income.
Legal Aid Ontario may help you if you qualify financially and have a legal issue that they cover. If you are not sure you qualify for legal help, you may contact them at:
Toll free: 1-800-668-8258
Toronto local: 416-979-1446
The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) has a referral service that you may consider using. This is a free on-line service available for people who are residents of Ontario only. You can receive an initial consultation with a lawyer for up to 30 minutes. The consultation is meant to help you determine your rights and options and you should not expect the lawyer to do any work related to your call for free.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has developed guides to procedures in family court that you may find helpful. You may read the guides to learn more about the steps you need to follow in family court, including the documents you need and when and where to serve and file them.
Family court forms can be found on the Ontario Court Forms website. The forms are available in English and French.