Failure to Pay Child Support Carries Serious Consequences in Florida
Child support is ordered in many divorce cases involving children. The intent behind child support is to ensure that a child, or children, are properly taken care of after a divorce, whether they live with one parent or both.
Unfortunately, many parents, for a variety of reasons, choose to shirk their responsibilities and not provide for their kids. These are parents who fail to pay court-ordered child support that was likely established in the separation agreement.
How to Enforce Child Support in Florida
If you and the other parent have reached an agreement on what should be paid each month for child support, a judge will likely approve that amount and approve such agreement. If you and the other parent fail to reach an amicable agreement, the decision will be left to a judge to determine a reasonable amount of child support and include it in an order. A court may choose to order one spouse to pay child support, which may arise in a dissolution of marriage, or even in a paternity action.
In many instances where a parent fails to pay child support, it is likely due to the fact that the decision on the monthly amount was made by a judge rather than the paying parent. A good attorney will advise clients who are going through a divorce and discussing child support to try and reach an agreement among each other since it may increase the likelihood that the parent paying support will be able to meet the monthly obligation.
What Happens If a Parent Fails to Pay Child Support
Florida has very strict laws when it comes to not paying child support and those laws can result in serious penalties. For example, the delinquent parent’s financial accounts can be frozen if they are behind by at least $600 or four months’ of child support. If the delinquent parent is behind by $2,500 or more, the U.S. Department of State can be notified and the parent’s passport could be revoked.
Other penalties include (this is not an exhaustive list, just a few highlights):
– Garnishing the delinquent parent’s paycheck;
– Intercepting federal or state tax refunds when $500 or more is owed in child support;
– Filing a lien on the delinquent parent’s vehicle(s) and forcing a sale when $600 or more of child support is owed; and
– Having the delinquent parent incarcerated for up to a year until overdue child support is paid.
How to Pursue these Penalties
A parent should consider hiring a Fort Lauderdale child support attorney and have them file a motion for civil contempt. This motion tells the court that you have a valid child support order or agreement in place, and the other parent is delinquent on child support payments.
You will need to prove that the other parent is in contempt of the child support order. This means you’ll have to show the following:
– Valid child support order or approved agreement signed by a judge;
– Evidence that the other parent has failed to pay child support in accordance with the order; and
– The other parent has the ability to pay.
A rebuttable presumption exists that the other parent has the ability to pay the child support; it is up to the other parent to show they cannot pay if they want to avoid being held in contempt.
If a Florida judge decides in your favor, they will hold the delinquent parent in contempt and issue an order stating how and when the parent should pay overdue support.
If you have questions about enforcing child support in Florida, contact Vanessa L. Prieto, an experienced Fort Lauderdale child support lawyer for a consultation on your case today.