Consequences of Failure to Pay Support

In Ontario family law support payments (spousal and child support) are administered by the Family Responsibility Office, often referred to as the FRO. The FRO enforces support obligations pursuant to court orders or registered domestic agreements on behalf of the recipient.*

What happens if a support payor refuses to pay?

Upon the filing of an order or a domestic agreement, the FRO has the power to deduct the support payments directly from the payor’s source of income, such as wages and salary. The FRO may also seize assets of the payor and/or register a lien against them.

If the payor doesn’t have the necessary income or assets to satisfy the amount payable, the FRO may administratively suspend the payor’s driver’s licence. Other licences, such as a licence granted under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 2006, may also be suspended.+

Besides the suspension of licences, the FRO may request a default hearing before the court, requiring the payor to provide financial information as prescribed by statutes and regulations, and to appear and explain the default. If the payor doesn’t show up, a bench warrant may be issued for the payor’s arrest.

At the default hearing, if no good reason is given to the court, the judge may order that the payor:^

(a) pay all or part of the arrears by such periodic payments as the court considers just, but an order for partial payment does not rescind any unpaid arrears;

(b) discharge the arrears in full by a specified date;

(c) comply with the order to the extent of the payor’s ability to pay;

(d) make a motion to change the support order;

(e) provide security in such form as the court directs for the arrears and subsequent payment;

(f) report periodically to the court, the Director or a person specified in the order;

(g) provide to the court, the Director or a person specified in the order particulars of any future change of address or employment as soon as they occur;

(h) be imprisoned continuously or intermittently until the period specified in the order, which shall not be more than 180 days, has expired, or until the arrears are paid, whichever is sooner; and

(i) on default in any payment ordered under this subsection, be imprisoned continuously or intermittently until the period specified in the order, which shall not be more than 180 days, has expired, or until the payment is made, whichever is sooner.

It’s important to remember even if a payor is taken into custody (put in jail), time spent in custody doesn’t reduce the arrears owing. The on-going obligation to pay support doesn’t stop, either. After getting out of the jail, the payor will be responsible for the amount owing, including any payments that have become due during the payor’s jail time.

*Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, S.O. 1996, c. 31.

+This provision (Part V.1 Suspension of Licences under Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act ) is added to the Act on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.

^s.41(10)

Please Note: This article is provided for information and educational purposes. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as such. Legislation referred to may have been amended or repealed since the publication of the article.

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