Residents of Florida should be aware of the repercussions that come with failing to pay court-ordered child support. In doing so, they can prepare themselves and be conscious of their legal obligations. Below is an introduction to the penalties associated with failure to make payments in the state of Florida.
Child support payments are important and necessary for both parents in order to ensure that children receive adequate care throughout life. Under Florida law, non-payment or delinquency in child support payments comes with severe consequences not limited to financial punishments—including possible incarceration. It is essential for parents obligated to make payments understand what consequences can arise from non-payment, such as potential legal action from either the state or custodial parent(s).
- Non-payment can also result in license suspension for those behind on payments for more than 60 days.
Overview of Child Support Laws in Florida
Child support laws in Florida are comprehensive and can be strict. It is a legal obligation for both parents to provide financial support for their children. In the state of Florida, if a parent fails to pay court ordered child support, there are significant penalties that can be enforced.
This article will provide a comprehensive overview of these laws and their penalties:
Definition of Child Support
Child support is court-ordered funds paid by a noncustodial parent for the financial care of their dependent children. The amount and duration of payments is determined by the state’s child support guidelines.
Typically, child support payments are made until the child turns 18, although the age limit may extend to 21 in some states. Programs exist to help calculate an appropriate amount of child support, taking into account both parents’ income and the applicable state laws.
Determining eligibility for child support requires completing an application that includes relevant information about both parents. Qualifying applicants will then receive notice of their eligibility, along with instructions regarding how payments should be made and other relevant directives from the court.
Parents have a legal obligation to pay court-ordered child support per statutes set forth by each state. Failure to comply with these requirements can bring about various penalties for noncompliance including:
- Wage garnishment
- Seizure of assets
- Jail time in some instances.
Obligation to Pay Child Support
Under Florida law, either or both parents are obligated to provide financial support for their children, even if the parents were never married. The amount of support one parent is expected to pay depends on the income of both parents and the number of children being treated. For unmarried parents, child support is typically paid through a court-supervised program administered by the Florida Department of Revenue.
If a parent fails to pay court-ordered support, they may be subject to legal action, and potentially criminal prosecution combined with civil penalties. In addition to financial penalties, courts can impost additional punitive measures on parents who are delinquent in paying their child support. This can include suspending their driver’s license or professional license and even jail time.
Furthermore, if a parent realizes that they cannot make payments due to unforeseen circumstanced such as job loss or medical bills, they may file a motion with the court seeking modification of their existing payment plan instead of simply failing to make payments. It is also important to note that any back payments still owed in full must be paid once the parent’s situation stabilizes and his/her income rises above poverty level.
Penalties for Failing to Pay Child Support
Failing to pay child support can have serious legal consequences in the state of Florida. Under state law, parents who fail to meet their child support obligations can face a variety of penalties, ranging from civil fines to criminal charges. To help provide some insight into these penalties, this blog post by Daniels Law PA in Fort Myers, FL will do a thorough review of the legal ramifications of failing to pay child support.
In Florida, one of the penalties for failing to pay child support is wage garnishment. This is a legal process used by the court in which money is taken directly out of a person’s paycheck and sent to the other custodial parent as child support payments. Wage garnishment entails that orders are sent to an employee’s employer, instructing them to withhold a certain amount of money from each paycheck until their past due balance is paid off.
Once an income deduction order has been issued, there are some important points regarding wage garnishment:
- There is no required court date or hearing first before income deductions can begin
- The amount withheld will depend upon the individual earning hourly or salaried wages
- Employees will be provided with advance notice from their employers prior to deductions taking place
- Once contact has been made with an employer regarding payment issues, employees may also be faced with liens on their property as another enforcement tool for back payments
- Employers must make payment within seven days of issuing wages to recipient employees
- Garnished amount cannot exceed 50 percent of employee disposable earnings each week
If someone in Florida ignores a court-ordered subpoena or does not obey enforcement methods such as wage garnishment for paying past due child support, he or she may face additional punishments such as:
- Contempt offense fines
- Fines paid directly to custodial parents
- Jail time
Driver’s License Suspension
One of the primary penalties for failing to pay child support in Florida is the suspension of your driver’s license. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) will issue a notice of suspension during an administrative hearing after the court has established that you are in arrears. DHSMV will then suspend your license until you catch up with your payments or make an arrangement to pay regularly in the future.
If you are not able to arrange payment or come up with a settlement on back payments by the time of the hearing, DHSMV may suspend your driver’s license up to a year. During this period, there will be restrictions on when and where you can drive as well as increased restrictions during periods in which you are unable to meet minimum requirements for payment.
Another consequence for failing to pay child support is that DHSMV may revoke the registration certificate and plates for all vehicles owned by someone with delinquent child support payments. If you are unable to arrange payment or make arrangements with other parties prior to going before DHSMV, revocation is one possible outcome that could occur at the hearing. Depending on your financial circumstances, financial help can be available upon request from various sources so it pays to ask about them if necessary!
Contempt of Court
A parent who fails to pay the court-ordered amount of child support may be held in contempt of court. Contempt of court is the most commonly used method to enforce a child support order, and is when the person that has been ordered to pay fails to do so. If the obligor is found in contempt, they can face many consequences, including being placed in jail until they pay all or part of the unpaid amount.
In Florida, if a party inhabiting a highly delinquent status (including one or more arrears greater than 12 times the monthly obligation) requires further enforcement, then certain penalties can be imposed by courts in order to ensure payment. These penalties may include wage garnishment, seizure of income tax refunds and attorney fees awards. The Florida Department of Revenue’s Child Support Enforcement Program utilizes various collection tools in order to coerce payment from obligors who fail to meet their child support commitments for long periods of time. A full list of such tools and information about various collection remedies may be found on the Department’s website.
The ultimate penalty for failing to pay child support is imprisonment. The Court can duly order that an individual be held in civil contempt if there has been proven failure on behalf of someone in arrears paying his or her court ordered obligation as determined by wage withholding payments or other forms accepted by the Clerk of Court’s office. If such failure continues despite incarceration punishment based civil contempt proceedings, a judge will have no choice but to sentence an individual beyond simple confinement and consider imposing more serious criminal penalties against them.
Tax Refund Intercept
Tax refund intercept is one of the penalties for failing to pay child support in Florida. This process allows the state to reduce or eliminate a person’s tax refunds if they have an overdue amount owing on their child support obligation from previous years. Under this process, revenues collected from state and federal income taxes will be applied directly to a past-due balance before it is refunded to the individual who filed the taxes.
If an individual has an overdue balance on their child support, they might notice that their tax refund is lower than expected or even non-existent once it has been intercepted. In most cases, they are not told ahead of time that this action may occur, which can leave them feeling unprepared and impacted financially.
Requests received after filing may come too late and cannot be reversed by filing amended tax forms. It is also important to note that funds collected through these intercepts will permanently satisfy any outstanding balance owed according to court records unless special arrangements are made with a Family Support magistrate prior to collection occurring.
Overall, the penalties for failing to pay child support obligations can be harsh, especially if non-payment has been continuous. Non-payers may find themselves subject to wage garnishment and even imprisonment.
Those who have fallen behind on their payments should consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
An experienced family law attorney will review your financial situation and advise you of all legal options available to help resolve your situation. Additionally, the attorney can provide expert advice on avoiding civil contempt proceedings by ensuring that all court ordered payments are made on time, in full and in the required form of payment. When it comes to enforcing or collecting a delinquent support order, a family law attorney is your best advocate.