Ontario parents who fail to pay support can lose car
Kenyon Wallace, National Post
· Monday, Nov. 8, 2010
New Ontario legislation that allows police to impound vehicles
belonging to parents who fall behind in family support payments
is a form of “persecution” that will do nothing to ensure
parents continue to pay, fathers' rights groups say.
December 1, 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 suspended for seven days. But in a new twist, the
same punishment will apply for people caught driving with a
suspended licence for failing to pay family support.
Such a remedy is a punitive measure that goes beyond the
transportation ministry’s jurisdiction and does not take into
account legimate reasons for missed support payments, says Lloyd
Gorling, founder of Ex-fathers, an advocacy group for divorced
dads based in Peterborough, Ont.
“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 everday to work?”
Mr. Gorling said.
“There seems to be an idea that these parents don’t care, or
are hiding and they have all this money. It’s the exact
opposite. For the most part, people who can pay, whether they
agree or not, make the payments.”
Under current rules, the provincial Family Responsibility
Office, which keeps track of all court-ordered child and spousal
support, has the power to ask the Ministry of Transportation to
suspend the licences of parents who continually miss their
The province says 3,965 suspensions were handed out by the
Family Responsibility Office between April 2009 and March 2010.
Now anyone caught driving with a suspended licence under this
circumstance will not be able to use their car for a week.
“It really is a matter of impressing upon the public how
critical it is that family support be paid,” Transportation
Minister Kathleen Wynne said in an interview with the National
She stressed the licence suspensions apply only to parents
who have a record of “chronic, agregious non-payment.”
“If you’ve had your driver’s licence suspended, you’re not
paying family support, you’re driving with your suspended
licence, well, you know what? We’re going to take your car.”
But Progressive Conservative transport critic Frank Klees
argues many people may not realize their licences have been
suspended until they get pulled over, partly because the
Ministry of Transportation informs people of suspensions by
mail, and because of what he calls “administration problems” at
the Family Responsibility Office.
He says he hears weekly from constituents with complaints
about payments being misplaced or processed incorrectly by the
Office, opening the possibility of some parents being branded
unfairly as non-payers.
“The problem here is that there will be innocent people who
will be caught in this regulation who will potentially lose
their jobs because they are unable to get to the very job that
they need to make the payments,” Mr. Klees said. “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 life ... it’s unconscionable.”
Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association also
questioned just how the impounding of a car belonging to someone
who hasn’t made family support payment is closely related to
“There might also be issues with the costs of impounding a
vehicle for someone whose licence has been suspended for issues
of late payment,” she said.
Compounding the problem is the fact that it can be
prohibitively expensive for parents unable to make payments to
hire a lawyer to argue for lower payments, says Danny Guspie,
executive director of Toronto Fathers Resources.
“If you lose your job, you’ve got a choice: hire a lawyer or
pay the support,” he said. “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 along Canada?”
The coming changes to Ontario’s road rules are the latest in
a long string of moves by the Ontario Liberals to crack down on
bad driving. In August, the government came under criticism for
poorly publicizing a new law that prohibits drivers under 21
years of age from driving with any alcohol in their systems.