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Toronto family lawyer Shelly Kalra says while it’s “appalling” news that a father fled the country permanently rather than pay spousal and child support for his four children, she warns that this type of reaction to a payment order is on the increase. Read Toronto Star Story
Kalra, with Stanchieri Family Law firm, says, “You are now seeing more and more cases where the payor is fleeing the country to avoid his/her obligations.
“If the father did not agree with the temporary support order made, he had options through the family courts,” she says. “It is unfortunate that the father has decided not to send any money to the children at all.
Kalra notes this is not something unusual, and in fact is happening frequently. She notes that as the Toronto Star article mentions, “there are approximately 120,000 individuals who are in arrears for child and spousal support. The initial battle is trying to obtain a temporary or final order for child and spousal support, which can take a long time depending on how much the payor tries to delay the matter. The second battle is actually trying to enforce the order, which becomes difficult when the payor tries to abscond from his/her obligations.
Kalra says in Ontario, if the payor fails to pay child and spousal support the Family Responsibility Office (“the FRO”) can become involved and take steps such as garnishing wages, bank accounts and suspending the payor’s driver’s license or passport.
“This is effective since the payor has no choice but to pay off a portion or all of the arrears to obtain his/her driver’s license or passport or then risk being without these crucial documents until the arrears are paid off,” she says. “Generally, the arrears are eventually paid off but over a long period of time.”
Kalra notes there are solutions. “Typically, if you believe that in a particular case a payor will not pay support and he/she will abscond from his/her obligations, you can ask the court for a freezing and/or non-dissipation order which will assist since the payor will be unable to cash out his RRSPs, bank accounts, etc.
“In this case, after the order was made the father cashed out his pension and fled to the Philippines. If there was a freezing and/or non-dissipation order made it would be more difficult for him to cash out and flee,” she says.
“As a general rule, we need to ensure that family law lawyers are more proactive instead of reactive since we do not want to be in a situation where our client is unable to collect on an order,” notes Kalra. “There is no point in having an order for support when you are unable to collect on it.
“Since the Philippines does not have a reciprocal agreement with the FRO, it becomes difficult for the FRO to enforce this order,” says Kalra.
“However, the mother always has the option of hiring a private investigator to track down the father. If he has been emailing and has commented that he is doing some consulting work for the Philippine government it should not be difficult to track him down. A lot of clients are now taking this route to try and track down deadbeat dads; however, you have to be careful that the cost of doing this does not outweigh how much you will get in the end,” notes Kalra.