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The Canadian Press

Ombud blasts child-support collections

Cites example of mother who changed name to avoid making payments

Canadian Press,  (published in various newspapers across Canada) including The Toronto Star, August 9, 2006

A name change that kept a dad from collecting child support is just the latest in routine carelessness at the office tasked with collecting from deadbeat parents, Ontarios ombudsman said today.

Andre Marin called on the province to take action after finding the Family Responsibility Office is inept and has a ``lackadaisical attitude when it comes to collecting outstanding child support.

He wants the provincial government to fix the system which was set up a decade ago to enforce court-awarded support orders because deadbeats have been having a free ride for too long.

This cant go on, said Marin, who released a scathing report Wednesday outlining deficiencies at the FRO.

Theres got to be a point where we agree either the government can pull up its socks and do it right, or we look at other options.

Marin said other options could include turning the job over to a private collection agency to ensure support is paid out.

In reviewing the offices records, Marin found that as of March 2005, deadbeat parents in Ontario owe more than $1.3 billion in support to their former spouses and children.

As a result, the government is paying out nearly $200 million in social assistance because enforcement is not vigorous enough, said Marin. Thats a lot of money.

Marin said the agency holds powerful legal tools to go after deadbeat parents but instead acts like a paper tiger, following the rules at the expense of common sense.

Administrators have taken a wooden view of their rules and obligations and forgotten that they are dealing with real people, reads his report.

The news didnt come as a big shock to Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur. She said the government knew that the FRO needed an overhaul.

When we came into power, we quickly moved to give the office $40 million over four years to improve their service, she said, noting previous reports by the ombudsman and provincial auditor had pointed out deficiencies in the support enforcement system.

Meilleur said the increased funding is beginning to have an effect and pointed to the FROs ranking in the ombudsmans annual report.

In 2001, the FRO received the most complaints but it dropped to No. 4 in the ombudsmans latest report, tabled earlier this year.

Still, Meilleur said shes directed the FRO to review its current policies and procedures.

Its a four-year plan. We still have improvements to make. Were going to do it, she said.

The report was based on the case of a Toronto-area father who was unable to collect support for his teenaged son because the FRO used the wrong name in filing a writ of seizure against his former wifes house.

When the mother sold the house she was able to pocket $20,000 in profits despite being in arrears on support because she changed her name to its maiden form, rendering the legal documents invalid.

The ombudsmans investigation found that the office knew the woman went under a variety of names but knowingly registered a ``useless order.

The father, who only wanted to be identified as Mr. F, said he hoped the government would act given the ombudsmans scathing report.

I find them the most inept, unprofessional, callous office in this government, said Mr. F, whose son is now 16.

NDP social services critic Michael Prue called for an immediate audit of the Family Responsibility Office.

Obviously its not working for too many Ontarians, he said.

They follow the rules so rigidly that they create huge hassles for ordinary people. It happens every day.

Opposition leader John Tory suggested bringing in new staff.

From where I come from, if you had $1.3 billion in absolutely uncollected arrears of anything, whoever was in charge of that would lose their job, he said.

Its unacceptable.

National Post

Ontario's child financial support collection agency has big problems

Ontario's Family Responsibility Office has many problems

Quote from Ontario Government Ombudsman -"an equal opportunity error-prone program,."'

Support recipients not getting their money.

Men who've been meeting their court-ordered obligations have trouble getting the FRO to stop taking payments when it's supposed to.   Read More ..

National Post logo

Pilloried, broke, alone

March 25, 2000

Divorced fathers get a bad rap for not supporting their children. The truth is, many can't. And, tragically, some are driven to desperate measures, including suicide.

In his suicide note, Jim, the father of four children, protests that "not all fathers are deadbeats." Jim hanged himself because he couldn't see any alternative. Even now, his children are unaware of the circumstances of their father's death. Meeno Meijer, National Post George Roulier is fighting to regain money wrongfully taken from his wages by the Ontario child-support collection agency. Chris Bolin, National Post Alan Heinz, a Toronto firefighter, has gone bankrupt fighting for the return of his daughter, 3, from Germany. No one will help him, but German authorities are trying to collect child support from him.

Whenever fathers and divorce are discussed, one image dominates: the 'deadbeat dad,' the schmuck who'd rather drive a sports car than support his kids. Because I write about family matters, I'm regularly inundated with phone calls, faxes, letters and e-mail from divorced men. It's not news that divorced individuals have little good to say about their ex-spouses. What I'm interested in is whether the system assists people during this difficult time in their lives, or compounds their misery. From the aircraft engineer in British Columbia, to the postal worker on the prairies, to the fire fighter in Toronto, divorced fathers' stories are of a piece: Though society stereotypes these men relentlessly, most divorced dads pay their child support. Among those who don't, a small percentage wilfully refuse to (the villains you always hear about).

What you haven't been told is that the other men in arrears are too impoverished to pay, have been ordered to pay unreasonable amounts, have been paying for unreasonable lengths of time, or are the victims of bureaucratic foul-ups. Read More ..

Calgary Sun newspaper logo

Non-dad on hook for support

Edmonton and Calgary Sun
Feb 5, 2005

EDMONTON -- An Edmonton judge has decided a divorced dad has to make child support payments, even though the child isn't his. Justin Sumner had an on-again-off-again relationship with the woman he eventually married, Dawn Sumner.

She already had a child from a previous relationship with a man named Rob Duncan, and as she and Justin broke up and reunited, Dawn was sexually involved with both men.

When she found she was pregnant, she called Justin, who recognized there was a possibility that Duncan was the father, but later concluded he was the dad.

Father Committeed Suicide after calling Family Responsibility Office

Andrew T. Renouf committed suicide on or about October 17, 1995 because he had 100% of his wages taken by the Family Responsibility Office, a child support collection agency of the Government of Ontario, Canada.

He asked for assistance for food and shelter from the welfare office and was refused because he had a job, even though all of his wages were taken by the Family Responsibility Office.

Andy was a loving father that hadn't seen his daughter in 4 years.

A memorial service was held in October, 1998, for Andy in front of the Family Responsibility Office at 1201 Wilson Avenue, West Tower, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This is in the Ministry of Transportation grounds in the Keele St. & Hwy 401 area. All members of the Ontario Legislature were invited by personal letter faxed to their offices. Not one turned up. The Director of the Family Responsibility Office and his entire staff were invited to the brief service. The Director refused and wouldn't let the staff attend the service although it was scheduled for lunch time. There was a peaceful demonstration by followed by a very touching service by The Reverend Alan Stewart. The text of the service will soon be able to be read below.

The service made the TV evening news.

It was Andy's last wish that his story be told to all. YOU CAN READ HIS SUICIDE NOTE