Q&A By John T. Syrtash, Associate,
Garfin Zeidenberg LLP, a Toronto family law lawyer for the past 39 years
Question: My ex. has defaulted on support payments. I’ve registered with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) [Ontario Government collection agency for child support] to enforce payment since 1994. Still, he has been jerking around the FRO and his children ever since. I’m a single mom and sole provider to my sons for the past ten years with no financial help.
The FRO agreed to lower his monthly support payment from $700.00 to $500.00 monthly on the arrears he owes without consulting me after all the money I spent on legal fees to negotiate my separation agreement.
He’s built a 3500 square home worth $350,000 (open concept) with all types of toys. His common-law wife harbours his assets and income, although he’s on the title. I’ve been paying rent in basements since 1993 and live from paycheck to paycheck. Help!
Answer: Raise hell by contacting the Manager of the FRO and your local MPP. I would tell them that your ex’s common-law spouse is sheltering his assets. Refer them to Section 41 of the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act.
Section 41(3) (4) and (5) allows the Director of the FRO to collect unpaid support from a person who is financially connected to the payer and to request financial information and documents from such a person.
Suppose your ex has hooked up with a partner or new wife who is “sheltering” the payer’s income or assets. In that case, the Director can thus force him or her to disclose their financial records, such as financial statements, filed tax returns, payslips, and Notices of Assessment. These sections also allow the Director to “add” such a person to the Court case to enforce a support obligation and then seek enforcement against that person.
If the court is satisfied that your ex’s common-law spouse is financially connected to your ex, either directly or indirectly, then the Judge has the power to add the lady as a party to the hearing. At that point, the Judge can make the woman financially responsible for the money that your ex owes you since she’s sheltering his income or assets to frustrate enforcement of the support arrears. Very few people know how that law exists, but it does
If the FRO still does nothing, you or your lawyer can ask the court to go after his common-law spouse because of the way Section 41 is worded. Also, because your husband is on title the FRO should register an order for any arrears against title and then move to sell the property if he refuses to pay or he’s already made some sweetheart deal with the FRO to pay a lower amount and is complying with it. The court can ultimately ask a Judge to jail him.
John Syrtash is an associate and family law lawyer with the Toronto firm of GARFIN ZEIDENBERG LLP.
John T. Syrtash B.A. (Hon.) LL. background:
Invited Speaker on Bill 78, Proposed Changes to Canada’s
Divorce Act, House
of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (November
Editor of the Syrtash Family Law Newsletter, Lexis Nexis
President of the Syrtash Spousal Support Database
Author of Religion and Culture in Canadian Family Law, Butterworths
Author A Calendar of Northern Fables, Amazon
Neither GARFIN ZEIDENBERG LLP nor John Syrtash is liable for any consequences arising from anyone’s reliance on this material, presented as general information and not as a legal opinion.
John T. Syrtash,
GARFIN ZEIDENBERG LLP
5255 Yonge Street, Suite 800
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M2N 6P4
Cell: (416) 886-0359
Fax: (416) 512-9992
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