COVID-19 and Support Order Enforcement through FRO (Updated May 8, 2020)

 In Family Law

Is FRO still open?

Yes. As of March 23, 2020, the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) announced that they would be reducing staff levels as a result of COVID-19. They continue to take client calls as per their regular hours and continue to have agents available to assist. Clients can, however, expect longer wait times and delays in responses to their messages.

Are Payors still expected to pay?

Yes. As FRO is still open, they continue to enforce child and spousal payments as per existing court orders and agreements. This means that if payments are being made through FRO, or wages are being garnished by FRO, these are expected to continue. FRO has, however, said that payors are to reach out as soon as possible if their circumstances have changed due to COVID-19. If a payor’s place of work has closed or they have been laid off, FRO announces that they will work through the situation with payors. What this looks like is unknown, but is likely to vary on a case by case basis. Options could include minimum voluntary payments. Speak with a lawyer about what options are possible in your situation, including possible court action and the timing of same.

Are Recipients still receiving payments?

Yes.  A child support and/or spousal support recipient will continue to receive support payments from FRO, so long as payments are available.

What happens if payments are not being made or being received?

If FRO does not receive payments that it can then pass along to the recipient, FRO will take the regular steps to ensure payments are made.

For the payor, this can include FRO contacting the employer, if there is garnishment of wages, writing to the payor directly, and issuing notices of enforcement actions. FRO will continue garnishing Employment Insurance and GST/HST credit payments as needed.

FRO has announced, however, that they will not garnish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments. They have also announced that they’ve cancelled their Driver’s Licence Suspension Notices. The status of cases will be reviewed and decided upon at a later date on a case-by-case basis.

Are special and extraordinary expense claims being processed?

Yes.  Special and extraordinary expense claims (“section 7 claims”) continue to also be processed; however, there is delay due to the reduced staffing levels.

Can a Statement of Arrears still be submitted?

A Statement of Arrears can still be submitted, but the documents still need to be commissioned in order to be processed. This can be done virtually with a lawyer.

What is FRO still able to do administratively?

FRO continues to take calls, accept payments and documents by mail or their FRO Online system. They are still able to register cases, but advise parties to contact FRO on how to do this. Withdrawal processes have not changed.

This blog post was written by Olivia Koneval, a member of the Family Law team.  She can be reached at 613-369-0367 or at olivia.koneval@mannlawyers.com.

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