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press release: Ontario's Family Responsibility office

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  • press release: Ontario's Family Responsibility office

    Ontario's Family Responsibility Office Dropped the Ball in Collecting Delinquent Child Support
    TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Aug. 9, 2006) - In his most recent report titled, "Its All in the Name," Ontario's Ombudsman Andre Marin found that the Ontario Family Responsibility Office needs to accept greater responsibility for ensuring that the rights of Ontario's Families are protected in the enforcement of support orders.
    The Ombudsman found in his investigation, that the enforcement office failed to warn a father who was owed child support arrears that a Writ of Seizure and Sale it had registered against the property of the delinquent support payor, his former wife, was useless because it was in the wrong name.
    "The Family Responsibility Office dropped the ball" Mr. Marin commented. "Its practices have cost the complainant at least $2422.00 - money which should have gone to feed and clothe his son. He should be compensated for his loss and systems should be put in place to prevent this from happening again.
    "Sadly this case reflects the very malaise which is all too prevalent among government bureaucrats. Administrators have taken a wooden view of their rules and obligations and forgotten that they are dealing with real people."
    The Ombudsman noted that the Family Responsibility Office could not rely on the defense that it had followed its own internal policies and procedures, when it allowed the worthless enforcement Writ to be filed and did not warn the support recipient that they would need to get a new court order so that a new Writ could be filed, if they wanted to be able to collect on the back support owed.
    "The Family Responsibility Office was content just to sit back and lead the support recipient on. It neglected its fiduciary responsibility and displayed a cavalier attitude towards an individual it was duty-bound to serve," remarked Mr. Marin. "It is no answer to the complaint that ineffective policies and procedures were followed."
    The Ombudsman rejected the Family Responsibility Office's argument that it was a "neutral" agency which had no obligation to advise support recipients that enforcement Writs may be useless to collect money owed in arrears if the support payor has changed their name.
    "One does not have to be rehearsed in the law of government fiduciary obligations to know that this kind of attitude and behaviour is malodorous." Mr. Marin commented "Those charged with the enforcement of support orders must accept that they have a duty to act in the best interest of those who the support was intended for.
    "It is evident to me that a cultural change is required in the way the Family Responsibility Office views its role. Its passive "hands off" approach must be replaced by a proactive, common sense, and good faith attitude towards support recipients."
    The Ombudsman's report contains five recommendations including that the Family Responsibility Office change its policy and procedures to inform recipients about the use of Writs of Seizure and Sale where support payors may have changed their name or use different names and that legislative changes be made to ensure more effective enforcement of support obligations.
    This press release is available in French
    The Ombudsman is an officer of the Legislature and is independent of both the political process and government administration. Generally an office of last resort, the Ombudsman investigates and resolves complaints about provincial governmental organizations and recommends corrective action. Services are free and confidential. Other languages can be arranged. For further information, call 416-586-3300, TTY 1-866-411-4211 or visit our website:
    "It's All in the Name"
    Ombudsman investigation into complaint of the Family Responsibility Office's ineffective enforcement using a Writ of Seizure and Sale
    The Ombudsman's Investigation and Findings
    The Ombudsman found that the Family Responsibility Office (the FRO) had acted unreasonably when it failed to inform a father that a Writ of Seizure and Sale to collect arrears of child support for his son, which had been filed against the property of his former wife, could not be enforced because it was in the wrong name. The Writ was in the former wife's name as it appeared on the court order requiring her to pay child support to the father and she had since remarried and had used a different name to register her property.
    Both the father and the FRO were aware that the former wife was using a different name but no one told the father that he might want to get a new court order so a new Writ could be issued. This was despite the fact that the father had repeatedly advised the FRO that his former wife was about to sell her property and had sought and received their assurance that a Writ was in place so he could collect on the unpaid support monies. As a result of the problem with the Writ, the father was unable to recoup $2,422.00, which he could have gotten from the proceeds when his former wife sold her property.
    The Ombudsman found that both the FRO's conduct in this individual case and its policies and procedures relating to the use of Writs of Seizure and Sale were unreasonable, noting that the FRO routinely neglected to inform support recipients that a Writ of Seizure and Sale would not be enforceable to collect support arrears if the support payor has changed their name and has a different name registered on their property. The Ombudsman did not accept the FRO's explanations that it was not obligated to provide this information to support recipients because it was a "neutral" agency or that providing the information would violate the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act or amount to providing legal advice to support recipients.
    The Ombudsman also found that the FRO owes support recipients an obligation to act in their best interests, given its legislated mandate to enforce support orders. The government, he noted, by assuming the role it has through the FRO, is obliged whether by law or simple notions of fairness to use its powers in good faith, with appropriate standards of care, and in the best interests of those lawfully entitled to support.
    The Ombudsman's Recommendations
    The Ombudsman recommended that the FRO pay compensation in the amount of $2,422.00 to the father, which represents the amount which he could have collected from the proceeds of the sale of his former wife's home if the Writ had been enforced. He also recommended that the FRO change its policy and procedures so that support recipients are advised of the possibility that a Writ may not be enforceable if the support payor has changed their name or uses a different name, in order to allow them to protect their interests and attempt to obtain an amended court order and new Writ. In addition he recommended that legislative changes be considered to ensure that Writs of Seizure and Sale can be more effectively and efficiently enforced when support payors who are in arrears change their name or use different names.
    The Minister of Community and Social Services responded to the Ombudsman's report noting that the Ministry takes the concerns it identified very seriously. On behalf of the Minister and the Ministry, the FRO accepted all 5 of the Ombudsman's recommendations including agreeing to pay compensation to the complainant. The FRO also undertook to report back to the Ombudsman in six months time on the implementation of all of the recommendations.
    The Family Responsibility Office
    With a budget of over 48 million dollars, the Family Responsibility Office enforces support obligations on behalf of approximately 185,000 families in Ontario. According to the Family Responsibility Office's records, as of March 31, 2006, over $1.3 billion in support arrears remained uncollected; including almost $200 million representing money owed to Government as a result of social assistance payments to support families of delinquent support payors.
    Court-ordered support must be enforced through the Family Responsibility Office. While there are some circumstances in which individuals can "opt out" of this enforcement program, of necessity, the vast majority of support recipients are completely dependent on the Family Responsibility Office to ensure that they receive the support they are entitled to.
    The Family Responsibility Office has historically experienced administrative problems, which it attributed to an antiquated computer system. An overhaul of the Office's computer and case management system is not scheduled to begin until November 2006.

  • #2
    Nothing new.... see a story from 2004

    If you're really bored... click on the Annual Reports for any year... and then click on the FRO. Interesting.


    • #3
      I wanted to bring this story back up as nothing has really changed. With us, we contacted the Ombudsman they read the story and did nothing I think they have dropped on the return the ball as well. But the bottom line in me bringing this up again despite what there office found then FRO still carries on in the same manner.
      AtALoss - Living a Nightmare


      • #4
        Changing opinion one person at a time.

        When I originally posted the previous remarks there was little that they were prepared to do at that time.

        I will admit that they have been keeping an eye on us. Lo and behold they have contacted us again today and they are going to be doing a full review over the next couple of days. They will be contacting us again this coming Tuesday. At that time they have asked if we would consider coming to Toronto for discussions etc maybe even to initiate a formal complaint. What ever their next step is you bet we will be there.

        In other threads I have asked/mentioned if you feel you have a valid or worthy complaint against FRO No matter if you pay or recieve Please contact the Ombudsman of Ontario. I cannot promise results for every case but I believe strongly that they need to see just what is happening out there at FRO's hands.

        Through all of this we have had to contact Equifax and Trans Union to have adjustments made. Again those who are having problems I ask that you contact them as well. Let them know what FRO has done to you. Through our conversations with them over the past few days I think and hope that they got the picture on how FRO destroys lives. We have had such a hard time getting them as well to correct things. They believe as well that FRO does no wrong.... the man we spoke with today was blown away at all they had done. We explained to him that there are many more like us out there. Hopefully we have made a difference with them today for everyone. I feel as well that they need to hear from you as well.Hopefully we can change these peoples minds and some day for you when you get away from FRO the transition will be much smoother.


        • #5
          Good luck AtALoss! You know I'm rooting for you and hubby!

          We're still keeping our fingers crossed and believe we WILL agree to withdraw from FRO. I believe, I believe, I believe! :-)


          • #6
            They say something to the effect of " positive thoughts inspire positive action" belief can make things happen. So hopefully that will be the case.

            Hey part of me is an optimist


            • #7
              AAL we Just started with the Nightmare of FRO in December 2009 we had no idea...but had no choice when the payor threatened to revoke child support time and again, then told my husband he should go to FRO to get his money from her, that she might even owe him more, and then lowered support on her own right before x-mas apparantly by the advice of her attorney...and the saga she is barely working at all but we have to wait 3 months before she falls back into arrears before they will take agreesive action even though she is a problematic payor even with the garnishments of her wages and taxes...... all we can do is wait for the system to work and hope we get payments soon.


              • #8
                Is the amount of support under a court order? if so you can have that registered with FRO at anytime.You also can have the support reviewed but that means that you will have to go back to court to have it done. You will need as much documentation as you can dig up. They first thing they will ask for are notices of Assessmnet from CRA as proff of income, then anything else the is proff of incomes. They will want from both parties. Reviews can work both ways, under and over payments. If one would want to research cases go to in the full text box put in something like "support overpayment". Also to make your life easier limit the date to the last 12 months. If you dont limit by some manner it's astronomical the cases it will pull. Canlii is a useful tool as it will give you a good picture as to what others have done and to understand how it will be assessed and looked at.


                • #9
                  AAL it was a domestic contract filed with the court and we already have FRO in on it they took the case by February this year...But the payor is evading FRO she has been lieing to the Courts about her income and we need a new financial but teh recipient chose to take a slight decrease from table amount...But FRO is dragging their feet on everyhting since 2008 agreed amount was $600...we already had to have FRO garnish arrears once...they garnished her taxes and had her payments being garnished out of her cheques until she slowly decreased her employment, now she is barely working...and RN....she took an 86K annual income with benefits and pension, 10 year senority and flushed it.....


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