Caution:  This page contains ONLY GENERAL LEGAL INFORMATION. 
It is NOT LEGAL ADVICE nor a replacement for talking to a lawyer
and getting legal advice about your case.    
The law can be complicated and the details of a case can be even more complicated! 
There are exceptions for every rule. 


What you do not know can harm you.  Do not rely on general legal information.



An order to pay child or spousal support (or an agreement that can be filed with the court for enforcement support) is serious.  There can be severe consequences if you do not deal with problems correctly and promptly.  Ignorance is not a defence.  You are expected to educate yourself about your responsibilities.  Legal advice (often free) is available.  Amongst the things you should understand and remember are the following:

  • Support continues until:

    • there is a new court order, or

    • the Order specifically says it ends on a certain date.

    If you think support should end, you need to act!  The Family Responsibility Office ("FRO") [see article] may consider the support to still be payable and take enforcement steps, until they get the order ending or changing support.  An agreement to change support or end it, signed by the recipient, is NOT enough - it must be turned into a court order.  Other parties (such as Ontario Works) may have a legal interest in the support.

  • The amount of support does not change unless:

    • there is a new court order or by amended written agreement (if the agreement has never been filed with the court)

    • the order specified a different amount at a specific date in the future.

    If you can no longer pay the amount of support required or if you have arrears you cannot pay, you need to act!  The Family Responsibility Office must continue to pay support based on the existing order or agreement.|

  • The Family Responsibility Office (who enforce support orders) cannot agree to change the support provisions of the order or agreement.  They may give you time to change the order or agreement, but it is up to you to take action.  They are, in effect, a collection agency.

  • Changes to ongoing support and arrears are based on evidence.  You will need proof of changes in income (including efforts to earn income) or changes in the child's or party's circumstances.  If you do not have this evidence or have lost the documents, you may not get the change that you seek.  This could leave you responsible for paying support that you may not otherwise have to pay.

  • If a recipient receives Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Plan benefits, they may be required to sign over ("assign") the child or spousal support to the agency for so long as they receive benefits.  If so, the payor must deal with the agency regarding the support payable during this period.

  • If an agreement to pay support is not filed with the court for enforcement, then it may be changed by a further written agreement.  But, either party, at any time, may file the support agreement with the court for enforcement of support.  It then becomes like a court order and can only be changed by a further court order.

  • If you delay, changing support may be far more difficult or even impossible.  If evidence is lost, the person delaying is the one that is impacted.  Failure to pay or take action over a long period may be seen, by a judge, as bad faith by the payor.  If the payor did nothing to help him/herself, why should a judge help?

  • You are required to pay through the Family Responsibility Office ("FRO") unless both parties file a Notice of Withdrawal with them.  Either party can re-file support for enforcement (without notice to the other party).  A Notice of Withdraw does not change the obligation to pay, it only changes FRO's involvement.

  • If you cannot prove payments were made, then you will have to pay again. Payments through the Family Responsibility Office are tracked by them.  If you pay directly to the recipient, be careful that you have proof.  The best ways are cancelled cheques or else receipts by the recipient.  Other methods of payments can be a problem to prove.

  • Promises by the recipient should not be relied upon.  Rely on proper written agreements and legal advice.

  • What you do not know, can hurt you.  Ignorance is no excuse, when you can get free legal advice at the courthouse.  Do not be "willfully blind"!

Also see articles: