Can You Afford To Have Your Car Seized: Outstanding support payment gives the Family Responsibility Office the right to order your car seized

Between April 2009 and March 2010, the province says that the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) handed out 3,965 suspensions on licenses to parents who continually miss their support payments. The FRO keeps track of all court-ordered child and spousal support payments, and under the current law, has the right to ask the Ministry of Transportation to suspend licenses. 

Starting December 1, 2010 people caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration beyond the legal limit, as well as those driving without a mandatory in-car breath monitoring device, will have their vehicles impounded for seven days.  This applies whether it is their car or a car that has been borrowed by a friend. In a new twist, the same punishment will apply for people caught driving with a suspended license for failing to pay child and/or spousal support.

Despite the pronouncement of the new law by Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne stating that, "It really is a matter of impressing upon the public how critical it is that family support be paid", the rule has come under harsh criticism by several groups.

"How are you going to make support payments if you can't get to work? If you can't make support payments, does the government really think you're going to be taking a taxi everyday to work?" says Lloyd Gorling, founder of Ex-fathers, an advocacy group for divorced dads based in Peterborough, Ont. He believes, as do others, that the new rule is a punitive measure that goes beyond the transportation ministry's jurisdiction and does not take into account legitimate reasons for missed support payments.

Progressive Conservative transport critic Frank Klees goes even further, arguing that due to various administrative issues, many people do not realize they are driving with a suspended license until they are pulled over. Administrative problems at the FRO are well-known, and Mr. Klees advised that he receives weekly complaints from constituents about payments being misplaced or processed incorrectly by the FRO. "If we didn't already have evidence that this agency really has a system that is unreliable, to overlay it now with this kind of action that can negatively impact someone's's unconscionable".

Compounding the problem is the fact that it can be prohibitively expensive for individuals unable to make payments to retain a lawyer to have the payments reduced. Danny Guspie, executive director of Toronto Fathers Resources states, "If you lose you're job, you've got a choice: hire a lawyer or pay the support. In most cases, you couldn't even hire the lawyer if you could pay the support. So how are you supposed to exercise your rights in Ontario, let alone Canada".

We take each case on an individual basis, and have dealt with many cases that involve  variation of support. We can handle the necessary variation at a reasonable cost, but the sooner you call us when you feel you are getting over your head with support payments or receive notice from the FRO that you are in arrears, the less expensive and time consuming it will be for you in the long run to deal with the issue.

*Quotes provided by National Post article "Ontario parents who fail to pay support can lose car" of November 8, 2010 written by Kenyon Wallace.

Reviewed March 2015