Stop the free ride for deadbeat parents, Ontario watchdog says

Ontario's ombudsman is criticizing the provincial office responsible for collecting money from deadbeat parents for its "careless" and "inept" collection of outstanding child support payments.

Ontario's ombudsmancalled Wednesday for a complete overhaul oftheoffice responsible for collecting money from deadbeat parents, accusingit ofneglecting its responsibilities and having a cavalier attitude toward the people it should be helping.

"This kind of attitude and behaviour is malodorous," André Marin said in releasingareporton the case ofa father who was unable to collect support because the Family Responsibility Officeused the wrong name in filing the writ of sale and seizure against his former wife's house.

The woman had changed back to her maiden name, thereby rendering the legal documents useless. That allowed her to pocket several thousand dollars from the house sale that she owed her former husband.

"The Family Responsibility Office dropped the ball," Marin said in a news release. "Its practices have cost the complainant at least $2,422 — money which should have gone to feed and clothe his son."

The ombudsman said deadbeat parents have been given a free ride for too long.

"Sadly, this case reflects the very malaise which is all too prevalent among government bureaucrats. Administrators have taken a wooden view of their rules and obligations and forgotten that they are dealing with real people."

'A cultural change is required'

Hecalled for the government to completely overhaul the system, including creating an easier way to track deadbeat parents and ways to help enforce court orders.

"It is evident to me that a cultural change is required in the way the Family Responsibility Office views its role," he said. "Its passive 'hands off' approach must be replaced by a proactive, common sense and good faith attitude towards support recipients."

Marinalso ordered the office to paythe father the $2,422it failed to collect.

The father, known only as "Michael F" in the report, was scathing in his criticism of the office responsible for helping him collect the support money.

"I found them the most inept, unprofessional, callous office in this government," he told CBC Radio. "I was actually told by one of their supervisory staff to 'Face it Mr. F, you're not going to see any money.' "

The Family Responsibility Office said it acceptsMarin's recommendations and will work to change the system.

With files from Canadian Press