FRO Family Responsibility Office Problems

Dead-beat arrears hit historical high

The Kingston Whig-Standard and other newspapers of the Osprey News Network James Wallace, Queens Park - Friday, August 11, 2006

Dead-beat parents owe an all-time historical high of $1.35 billion in support arrears, Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin has found.

As a consequence, welfare bills in this province have been inflated by some $200 million, Marin concluded in a report released yesterday.

Dead beats in this province have been having a free ride on the backs the citizens of Ontario, he told a Queens Park press conference.

As revealed by Osprey Media earlier this week, Marins report blamed a decade-old, lackadaisical attitude at the provinces Family Responsibility Office (FRO) for having repeatedly frustrated both parents who pay and receive child support.

The office has consistently demonstrated a slavish and blind adherence to rules. The agency also suffers from both a profound attitudinal problem and conflict of identity which results in a failure to aggressively enforce support payments which is its fundamental reason for existing.

When senior officials at the agency and the ministry confronted with specific problems, FRO offered platitudinous excuses or outright evasions and attempts to deny responsibility, Marin said yesterday.

I can tell you for the last decade it has been the bane of existence for overseers in this province, he said.

It has been a money pit for the government and it has been the source of immense frustration for those receiving child support payments.

We need to fix this and put it to rest once and for all, Marin said.

Madeleine Meilleur, the minister of community and social services, said she appreciates the auditors comments and recommendations and will review them.

Meilleur said the government has invested $40 million over four years to reduce wait times, step up arrears enforcement and improve service at the agency.

That has already resulted in fewer public complaints and Read More ..ney being collected, she said.

We have done a lot and were seeing now the results of our investment, Meilleur said. Its not perfect, we know we need to continue the service and that's what were doing.

I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, she said.

The Family Responsibility Office is a government agency created in 1996 to enforce court-ordered child support payments in Ontario.

When courts make a child custody order, FRO is responsible for collecting money from the parent that is paying and directing it to the parent receiving support.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently upheld the principle that support orders should be rigorously enforced.

But that isn't happening in Ontario, Marin said.

Just 70 per cent of the 185,000 support orders filed annually with the office are compliant, which the FRO defines as someone who pays at least 85 per cent of order.

Marin said he takes those numbers with a grain of salt.

I found an instance of someone who was incarcerated, a payer who was incarcerated and they considered that to be compliant because they couldn't enforce payment by someone who is incarcerated, he said.

Marin raised a specific case about a man, Michael, who was owed $5,000 in back support from his wife due their 16-year-old.

When his ex-wife tried to sell her home and the man informed FRO which then botched the execution of a Writ of Seizure and Sale to recover his arrears. Because the woman used her new married name (instead of her maiden name) to sell the property, the Writ couldn't be executed and FRO insisted it had followed its procedures and done nothing wrong.

Marin found FRO had been warned by the man that his ex-wife was using multiple names and had failed to take adequate steps to ensure back support was recovered.

Sadly, this case reflects the very malaise I have been attacking these many months, he said in his report. Administrators have taken a wooden view of their rules and obligations and forgotten that they are dealing with real people.

Marin suggested the agency is at a crossroads and must be fixed, privatized or otherwise set right.

Conservative leader John Tory said Marins report shows the public relations and advertising claims of the Liberal government that they've got this office functioning among the best in the world have proven to be categorically false.

What the Ombudsman has revealed here is another (government) office among many he looks at where people seem to be less concerned about getting results and more concerned about bureaucratic rule making, Tory said.

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

Michael Prue, the NDP critic, called on the Liberals to conduct a full audit of the Family Responsibility Office for failing to enforce child support orders.

The McGuinty government has been ignoring problems at the Family Responsibility Office for three years - now its grown into a billion dollar mess, Prue said. Its time for a full and complete audit of the FRO to investigate if there are other cases like the ones the Ombudsman addressed today.

James Wallace is the Queen's Park bureau chief for the Osprey News Network.

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

Auditor General Ontario

Auditor General of Ontario

Disasterous Report on the Family Reponsibility Office FRO 2010

80% of Telephone calls don't get answered

Payers and recipients do not have direct access to their assigned enforcement services officer

"There is only limited access to enforcement staff because many calls to the Office do not get through or are terminated before they can be answered."

"The Office is reviewing and working on only about 20% to 25% of its total cases in any given year."

"At the end of our audit in April 2010, there were approximately 91,000 bring-forward notes outstanding, each of which is supposed to trigger specific action on a case within one month. The status of almost one-third of the outstanding bring-forward notes was "open," indicating either that the notes had been read but not acted upon, or that they had not been read at all, meaning that the underlying nature and urgency of the issues that led to these notes in the first place was not known. In addition, many of the notes were between one and two years old."

"For ongoing cases, the Office took almost four months from the time the case went into arrears before taking its first enforcement action. For newly registered cases that went straight into arrears, the delay was seven months from the time the court order was issued."

Ottawa Citizen

Ontario agency admits to overbilling on child support payments

The Ottawa Citizen
January 14, 2012

TORONTO - Ontario's controversial Family Responsibility Office has been overbilling 1,700 parents, mostly fathers, for as long as 13 years, the province admitted Friday.

The 1,700 parents were overbilled by an average $75 each month, after the agency wrongly applied a cost of living adjustment that was eliminated in 1997.

Those who were overpaid will not be forced to give the money back.

Instead, taxpayers will foot the $5.3 million bill for the agency's mistake.

"This error's been found and it's being corrected," said Liberal cabinet minister John Milloy. "We're going to be reaching out to those individuals (who were overbilled) and talking to them about their situation, formally alerting them."

The Family Responsibility Office, or FRO, is responsible for ensuring court-ordered child support payments are made. Read More .. than 97 per cent of all payers overseen by the office are male.

Milloy said the agency discovered the problem at some point in 2011. No one will be fired for the mistakes, he added.

"I see this as something very serious," he said in an interview. "I'm not trying to minimize it, but … there's been lots of action taken to reform FRO, to update computer systems, to update customer relations and it's on a much firmer footing."

The billing mistake is only the latest controversy to engulf FRO.

Women's Post Newspaper

"Canada's national newspaper for professional women"

The Family Responsibility Office Under Scrutiny

On June 9, 2005 the McGuinty government announced the passage of Bill 155, legislation that promised to increase enforcement, improve fairness and enhance efficiency at the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).

However, the legislation did not address the problem of accountability and, as things now stand, the FRO is a threat to every Canadian affected by a government regulated support and custody arrangement system. Think of George Orwell's 1984 and you'll have a good picture of how issues are handled at the FRO.

They have legal power to extort money from Canadians, but are not responsible or accountable for their actions.

Last year an FRO staff member decided not to wait for a court date to review the financial status of an out-of-work truck driver and took it upon themselves to suspend his license because he was, understandably, behind on his payments, having lost his job earlier in the year. Although he was looking for work, the FRO cut off the only way he knew of to earn a living. His suicide note explained how he'd lost all hope. Is this what we want FRO to be doing?  Read More ..