FRO enforcement powers curbed by court

While there is no shortage of complaints against the Family Responsibility Office for not doing enough to enforce support orders, a case this past spring illustrates that, at times, FRO may be overly zealous in its pursuit of payors.

In DeBiasio v. DeBiasio, there was an existing order for payment of child support. When the children moved in with the payor, he brought a motion to terminate his payments on the basis of a material change in circumstances. While FRO was notified of the motion date and the legal basis of the motion, the agency still proceeded to suspend the payor’s driver’s license for non payment of support.

In cases where a payor has an upcoming court date where they are going to argue for a material change of circumstances, should FRO be stayed from enforcing the terms of the original child support order?

In this case, the trial judge didn’t conclude that the terms of the original order should be stayed, but he did address the exercise of FRO’s discretion in enforcing support orders. FRO’s choice to try and suspend the payor’s driver’s license when a court date on the material change motion was on the horizon represented an unreasonable exercise of their discretion.

To make matters worse, FRO’s legal department did not respond to letters and requests made by the lawyer for the payor. Like any other lawyer in the province, lawyers working for FRO are expected to respond in a timely way to correspondence received from other lawyers. In this case, they fell short of that standard.

For all these reasons, the payor was successful on the motion and the judge awarded costs against FRO.