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What Can I Do to Enforce a Child or Spousal Support Order Without Having to Communicate with My Ex?

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

By: Anne-Marie Langan*


Many people leaving relationships in which they have experienced abuse are reticent obtain or to enforce child support and/or spousal support orders for fear that they will have to communicate with their ex in order to obtain payment. However, it is the legal responsibility of both parents to support their children and the right to child support cannot be waived as it is considered the right of the child, not the recipient. Entitlement to spousal support also should not be waived lightly, particularly in situations where the abuse suffered has had a significant impact on the recipients' mental health and ability to work.


Child support orders and spousal support orders made in Ontario courts are enforceable by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) unless the recipient agrees to withdraw the order from enforcement. Formal written agreements to pay child support are also enforceable by FRO once registered with the court and FRO. There are many mechanisms that FRO has at their disposal for enforcing support orders, including garnishing wages and bank accounts, suspending the payor's license and passport, putting a lien on the payor's real property, obtaining writs of seizure and sale against the payor's other property and informing the payor's professional association about their default in payment. The recipient can assist with the enforcement by providing information to FRO about the payor.



FRO now offers the option of applying for a child support order online and this same service will update the child support payments if the payor's income changes. In order to apply online the recipient needs to provide FRO with the following information:

  • current contact information for the payor

  • details about the children and any special expenses

  • tax and income information

  • copy of any existing written agreement about support

FRO will then send the application to the payor and will ask them to provide their information. If the payor does not respond or will not voluntarily agree to pay child support the recipient should consider obtaining an order for support from a family court.


FRO has many mechanisms available to it through its governing legislation to enforce support orders in the event that the payor continues to refuse to pay support once an order has been made. In order to improve the chances that the support order will be enforced by FRO the recipient should provide them with as much information as possible about the payor such as their address, social insurance number, place of employment and contact information, passport number, driver's license number, information about bank accounts and investment accounts in the payor's name, information about any valuable items or real property owned by the payor including vehicles, boats, RVs, cottages, investment properties, etc.. The recipient should also update FRO if you learn that the payor has moved, changed employment, changed their name, purchased a new luxury item or changed banks. There is also the option of withdrawing the order from FRO enforcement and enforcing it by asking the court to garnish bank accounts, savings, and wages, and placing liens on real property. If the recipient does not have much information about your ex's finances you can ask the court to order a debtor's examination.


In some circumstances pursuing child support may not be a safe option. It used to be that Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program recipients were required to pursue any child and spousal support that they were entitled to and these amounts were deducted from their assistance. However, thanks to advocacy efforts this policy has now changed and they are not allowed to pressure recipients to pursue child or spousal support if there is a risk this will place them and/or their children in danger. Child support payments are no longer deducted from assistance but spousal support payments are.


If you are not sure whether it is safe to pursue support and need to obtain more information about your legal right to support and your options for keeping yourself safe while you do so you can:



REFERENCES:


Community Legal Education Ontario. (n.d.). Going to family court. Steps to Justice. https://stepstojustice.ca/legal-topic/family-law/going-family-court/


Community Legal Education Ontario. (2022, February 8).  My partner isn’t paying child support. What should I do? Steps to Justice Family Law Child Support. https://stepstojustice.ca/steps/family-law/4-go-court-4/


Community Legal Education Ontario. (2023, August 17). Where can I find a lawyer to help with my family law issue? Steps to Justice. https://stepstojustice.ca/steps/family-law/2-find-lawyer-0/


Community Legal Education Ontario. (2022b, August 15). How Do I Collect The Money I’m Owed. Steps to Justice. https://stepstojustice.ca/steps/tribunals-and-courts/2-have-examination-hearing/


Family Responsibility Office. (2020, September 30). Enforcing child and spousal support payments. ontario.ca. https://www.ontario.ca/page/enforcing-child-and-spousal-support-payments


Government of Ontario, O. W. (2022, March 28). 5.5 family support: Ontario works policy directives. ontario.ca. https://www.ontario.ca/document/ontario-works-policy-directives/55-family-support


Service Ontario, G. of O. (n.d.). Online Services. Online services. https://www.services.fin.gov.on.ca/OTP/Gentax/_/#1




Anne-Marie Langan B.A., B.S.W., LL.B., LL.M. is the project lead for the sexual violence projects at Peterborough Community Legal Centre, including the SHAPE project which provides legal advice and education for those experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace and the Your Way Forward project which provides support for those who have experienced intimate partner sexual violence. These projects are both sponsored by the government of Canada's. She can be reached directly at anne-marie.langan@ptbo-nogo.clcj.ca.


Disclaimer: This post contains general legal information as of November 27, 2023 that may or may not apply in a particular situation. It is important to note that the law and government policies can change and this blog will not be updated to reflect these changes. It is highly recommended to seek legal advice from a lawyer about your particular situation.

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