It can become more complicated when one of the parents resides overseas. Ontario courts order child support where the paying parent resides in Ontario. The Family Responsibility Office (FRO), a program of the Government of Ontario, can help if one parent lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction.
This article looks at registering a child support order in Ontario. We look at a recent decision of the Court of Appeal for Ontario in which the court ordered child support, even though there was an order from the recipient parent’s jurisdiction.
As we recently explained, child support orders from Ontario courts are automatically filed with the FRO. The FRO collects payment from the paying parent and distributes it to the recipient parent. If payments are not made, the FRO has the authority to collect the money owed.
The FRO can also enforce support orders when either parent lives in Ontario and the other person lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction. This allows support recipients to register domestic or foreign support orders in order to enforce them against residents of Ontario or those who have income or assets in the province.
The reciprocating jurisdictions are provinces, territories, states and countries that Ontario has arrangements with, including all Canadian provinces and territories, all US states and about 30 other countries. The full list can be found here.
Under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act 2002 (Act), a support order made in a reciprocating jurisdiction needs to be registered for enforcement in the Ontario court system. It is then sent for registration with the FRO. This does not apply to orders made in other Canadian provinces or territories under the Divorce Act 1985 – they can be sent directly by the recipient to the FRO without the need to be registered in an Ontario court.
In Krause v Bougrine, the parties were married in Finland in 2003 and divorced in 2004. The father has resided in Ontario since 2007, and the mother and children have lived in Finland except for 14 months in 2012-2014 when the father abducted the children to Morocco.
In 2010, a Finnish court awarded custody of the children to the mother and required the father to pay child support of 350 euros per month per child. From 2010 until a temporary support order was made in Ontario in June 2019, he paid no child support.
Finland is a reciprocating jurisdiction. As a result, in 2014, the Minister of Justice of Finland requested the FRO to register the Finnish order and claimed support arrears of almost 33,000 euros. The FRO passed this onto the Ontario Court of Justice for registration. The father challenged this, arguing that he had not received notice of the Finnish court proceedings. As a result, the Ontario court refused to register (set aside) the Finnish order. It turned out that much of the father’s evidence was false – he appealed the decision in the Finnish courts, so clearly he had received notice.
In 2018, the FRO sought child support in Ontario on behalf of the mother.
In 2019, the motion judge made a final order of child support of $2,463 per month for the two children, along with payment of arrears of almost $180,000, payable at $300 per month. The FRO assisted with the collection of monies by deducting wages directly from the father’s employer and sending payments to Finland.
The father appealed this order, arguing that the Finnish courts should have exclusive jurisdiction over child support because they granted the divorce and the initial child support order.
Justice of Appeal MacPherson explained that a principal purpose of the Act is to facilitate the enforcement of support obligations of persons resident in one jurisdiction whose dependents are resident in another:
Reciprocal support enforcement statutes are enacted because of historical difficulties encountered by parties seeking to obtain, vary or enforce a family support order when one party is no longer residing in the jurisdiction where the original order was made.
Under section 21 of the Act, if the registration of a foreign order is set aside, as was the case with the Finnish order in 2014, “the order shall be dealt with under this Act as if it were a document corresponding to a support application received”. His Honour said that this section empowers an Ontario court to hear a new support application that takes into account the unenforceable foreign order as well as other information the court considers necessary to make a new support order.
Finally, his Honour addressed “the potential for double recovery” that might arise if the Ontario court is able to make a child support order in the face of an existing Finnish order. His Honour said that the real problem is not double recovery, “it is no recovery”. The FRO’s attempt to remedy an egregious situation was appropriate.
The Court of Appeal upheld the 2019 child support order of the Ontario Court of Justice.
Contact NULaw early in your separation to understand your rights and obtain the best possible child support arrangement for your children.
NULaw and its predecessors have been helping clients in Toronto since 1953. We have extensive knowledge of Ontario and Canadian family law issues and regularly provide honest and practical legal advice on these matters. We help our clients reach fair and efficient solutions to all of their separation and divorce issues, including child support, spousal support and property division. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation.