Family Law
Spousal & Child Support and Family Responsibility Office (FRO)

Spousal Support

Spousal support applies to partners who are married and to partners in a common-law relationship. Partners can be same-sex. Spousal support is paid by the partner who earns more to the partner who earns less. The partner who pays spousal support is called the payor, and the recipient of spousal support is called support recipient.

Spousal support determination in Ontario takes into consideration many different factors including the occupation of each spouse during the marriage, the length of the marriage, age, physical health and career potential of each party. Spousal support may be awarded if it is demonstrated that one party:

  • Suffered an economic disadvantage during the marriage (e.g. a partner quit his/ her job or switch to a less demanding job to care for the family);

  • Deserves a financial relief;

  • Contributed to the care and upbringing of the children during the marriage. Spousal support may be paid for periodically or in a lump sum. Child support always takes precedence over spousal support.

The claim for spousal support can be very broad. There are two categories you may fall into for spousal support, compensatory and non-compensatory. Compensatory essentially means that you suffered a disadvantage as a result of the marriage. Non-compensatory is based on need.  Compensatory spousal support is based on either the support recipient’s economic loss or disadvantage because of the marriage or on the recipient’s conferral of an economic benefit on the payor without adequate compensation. Non-compensatory spousal support is based on need. But it goes beyond basic needs, as it also takes into consideration the economic interdependency that develops as a result of a shared life.


Child Support

In Ontario, a base amount of child support is calculated in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines to cover expenses like clothes, groceries, and school supplies. A custodian parent is the parent who has custody of the child(ren). In order to determine the amount of support that should be payable every month to the custodial parent, the guidelines will take into account the non-custodial parents’ income and the number of children. The parent who pays child support is called the payor parent. Even if your child(ren) spend an equal amount of time with each parent, the parent with the higher income may still have to pay some child support.

Child support is separate from access. A parent cannot be denied access to their child because they refuse to pay child support. And a parent who doesn’t have access may still be a payor for child support. Parents must support their children even if they:

  • were never married;

  • do not reside with the children;

  • didn’t have an ongoing relationship with the other parent; or

  • have no connection to the children and have never seen them, or already have other children from a new relationship.

A parent can be a biological parent, a non-biological parent, an adoptive parent, and sometimes a step-parent. Parents may also have to contribute toward other expenses in addition to the base amount of child support required by the Child Support Guidelines. These are called “special” or “extraordinary” expenses (some referred to as s. 7 expenses) and each parent typically contributes to these expenses in proportion to their income.  Examples of such additional expenses include:

  • medical and dental insurance premiums for the child;

  • health-related expenses for the child, such as orthodontics, pediatricians, prescription drugs, or therapies;

  • the cost of school or educational programs;

  • expenses for post-secondary education for the child; and

  • the child’s extracurricular activities, such as sports or music lessons.


Family Responsibility Office (FRO)

The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) is a government agency that enforces child support and spousal support. FRO collects support directly from the person who has to pay support, keeps a record of the amounts paid, and then pays that amount to the person who has to get support.

If the payor parent misses support payments, FRO can only take action if you have a:

  • court order

  • separation agreement that is filed with the court and registered with the FRO for enforcement

  • Notice of Calculation or Notice of Recalculation filed by the government

FRO enforcement is automatic once there’s a court order or a separation agreement involving spousal and/or child support filed with the court. The parties may consent to opt out of enforcement by FRO by mutual consent of both parties. A recipient may later choose to opt back into enforcement by FRO unilaterally if the payor was in default in support payments.

Like the Children’s Aid Societies (CAS), FRO has a lot of power and can take a wide range of action if you default on spousal and child support payments. Some actions that FRO can take if you default on your support payments, includes but not limited to:

  • Garnishment (e.g. seizure of wages, pensions, bank accounts, rents);

  • Compel the production of a financial statement from the payor and Information disclosure from any person and public body in that regard;

  • writ of seizure and sale;

  • Charge against land (for real estate);

  • Personal Property Security Act registration (for personal properties);

  • Lottery winnings in Ontario of at least $1,000 or non-monetary prize of the same value;

  • Restraining order;

  • Apply to court for the issuance a warrant for the arrest of a support payor who fails to file a financial statement or appear at a default hearing;

  • Suspension of driver’s licence;

  • Suspension of passport

FRO can enforce spousal and child support payment obligations from a payor parent who lives in Canada, every state in the United States, and approximately 30 other countries that Ontario has an agreement with. These are called reciprocating jurisdictions.

Suspension of Driver's Licence

As mentioned above, if you default on payment obligations, FRO can ask the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to suspend your driver’s licence. If you're caught driving with a suspended license, the police can impound your car for 7 days, and they might impose other penalties as well.

Once FRO contacted the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, FRO will mail you a First Notice of Driver’s Licence Suspension, and your driver license will be suspended 30 days after the issuance of the notice. To stop this, you must:


  1. Contact the FRO and bring your payments up to date by paying what you owe (arrears);

  2. Contact the FRO and make a voluntary payment plan where you agree to a payment schedule that you can afford; or

  3. Bring a refraining order to Court within 30 days requesting that your driver’s licence not be suspended.

Please note that if you do not do one of the above, after 30 days your driver license will be suspended until you have bring a court order to change your monthly support obligation, and have the payment arrears addressed by Court.

HTW Law can help. Call us now at 647-849-6582 or send us a message if you have some legal questions / inquiries or want to schedule an appointment with HTW Law.


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