The Family Responsibility Office has the ability to suspend a payor’s driver’s license, as well as their passport, effectively preventing them from driving or travelling outside of the country. These are a few of the tools the FRO can employ in order to compel an individual who is in arrears to start paying their court-ordered child or spousal support.
However, a payor can bring a motion to refrain FRO from pursuing these enforcement mechanisms in certain circumstances, particularly where the suspension of a license and passport will affect their ability to earn a living.
In Lewis v. Ontario, the payor had custody of 3 minor children. There was a court order in place stipulating that he pay his ex-spouse over $8,000.00 a month in spousal support. At the time of this order, the payor’s business was generating an annual income for him in excess of 500K. However, as a result of changes in his business, the payor’s income shrank dramatically to approximately $60,000.00 a year.
The parties renegotiated the issue of spousal support as a result of the changes in the payor’s income. They signed a final agreement which lowered the amount of spousal support, and which confirmed there were no spousal support arrears owing. After signing the agreement, however, the payor’s ex sought to have it set aside.
In granting the refraining order, the court felt that the payor had established a prima facie case that: (1) the final agreement signed by the parties eliminated the arrears which the FRO was seeking to enforce through the suspension of the payor’s driver’s license and passport, or (2) the payor was entitled to have the original order varied because of the change in his financial circumstances. The payor’s business required him to drive throughout Ontario to meet with clients, and also required him to travel to the U.S. His ability to support his 3 children would be significantly compromised if FRO were permitted to enforce the terms of the original order in this manner.