Ontario Implements Treaty for Enforcement of International Support Orders

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The Ontario government has recently announced the implementation of an important international treaty that has implications for enforcing spousal support and child support orders between jurisdictions. This treaty expands the province’s ability to work with 38 additional international jurisdictions. In this blog, we will discuss the treaty and its impact on the family law framework in Ontario. 

Standardization of Enforcement of Orders

The Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (the “Convention”) is an international treaty that aims to establish procedures for the prompt recovery of child support and other forms of family maintenance across borders. It was adopted on November 23, 2007, and ratified by Canada in October 2023. 

The Convention provides a legal framework for recognizing and enforcing maintenance obligations between countries, particularly in cases where one parent lives in a different country from their child or ex-partner. It ensures that children of parents living in different jurisdictions receive the financial support they need.

The key provisions of the Convention include, but are not limited to: 

  • Enforcement: it establishes uniform mechanisms for recognizing and enforcing child and spousal support orders made in jurisdictions that have also ratified the Convention. This avoids the complication of bringing separate legal proceedings to have such orders found enforceable in a separate jurisdiction. 
  • Central Authority: countries that have ratified the Convention must designate a central authority to facilitate communication and enforcement of orders made in different jurisdictions. In Ontario’s case, it is the Family Responsibility Office, which will be discussed below. 
  • Information Sharing: member states must cooperate and exchange relevant to spousal and child support orders, increasing enforcement efficiency. 

By establishing clear procedures and mechanisms for cross-border cooperation, the Convention helps ensure that children receive the financial support they need and promotes mutual respect for each member state’s legal systems while also providing effective tools for resolving disputes and enforcing maintenance obligations internationally.

Ontario’s Family Responsibility Office 

The Family Responsibility Office (“FRO”) is the agency responsible for enforcing and collecting court-ordered child support, spousal support, and other family support payments in Ontario. It was established under the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, and its primary mandate is to ensure payments ordered by Ontario courts are satisfied through mechanisms such as garnishment, seizure of assets, and placing liens on property. 

The Convention’s implementation now empowers the FRO to recognize and enforce support orders from international member states, similar to its mechanism for originating from other Canadian provinces and territories under the  Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act 2002. The FRO can now employ various measures to enforce and collect support payments, including garnishing wages, seizing bank accounts, intercepting tax refunds, suspending driver’s licenses, and placing liens on property to collect money owed. 

Implications for Ontario’s Public Services

Implementing the Convention will streamline enforcement efforts between Ontario and 38 different jurisdictions by taking pressure off the courts to recognize support orders individually. In turn, litigants will save money and time, while courts can expedite other disputes. Overall, the Convention has positive implications for the public by facilitating access to support, promoting legal certainty, reducing administrative burdens, and safeguarding the welfare of children involved in cross-border family matters.

Windsor Family Lawyers Advising On Support Payments When Someone Lives Outside Of Ontario

The Johnson Miller Family Lawyers team in Windsor, Ontario, provides spousal support and child support payment advice to parents and divorced or separated couples.  Our family lawyers understand how to enforce a support order in your favour, domestically or internationally. To speak with one of our family lawyers today, call us at 519.973.1500 or visit us online.

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