Obtaining your child support order from the court is sometimes only half of the battle. Getting the other parent to actually pay support can sometimes be even more difficult than obtaining the court-ordered support. So, what can you do if the other parent is behind on support or simply refuses to pay? You have legal options.
Penalties for Failing to Pay Child Support in Florida
Florida has some of the most stringent child support enforcement laws in the country. Perhaps that is because the Florida Department of Revenue has been tasked with enforcing child support orders.
All child support payments are directed to a state disbursement unit (SDU). Then, the SDU actually makes payments to custodial parents. That way, you do not have to deal directly with the other parent when making or receiving payments.
The clerk of court is permitted to suspend a non-custodial parent’s driver’s license if he or she falls behind on child support payments. The parent must simply make this request with the clerk to get the process started. Other penalties for failing to pay support include:
- Bank account seizure
- Withholding (garnishing) wages
- Withholding tax refunds (both federal and state)
- Withholding benefits (such as workers’ compensation benefits)
- Freezing home equity lines of credit
- Reporting to credit bureaus
- Professional, recreational, or occupational license suspension
- Jail time
All of these penalties are only triggered when a parent files a contempt of court proceeding to enforce the child support order.
Filing a Contempt of Court Proceeding
You must have a formal child support order for it to be enforced in Court. That is, you cannot use the court system to enforce an informal agreement that you and the other parent may have. You must start with having a formal child support order through the Court.
Once you have your child support order, you can file a contempt of court proceeding to enforce the other parent’s child support obligations if he or she falls behind. Because the child support order is a court order, failure to adhere to its requirements is a direct violation of direction from the court, and the court has vast powers to enforce its orders.
Your motion for contempt of court should set out your arguments and the facts of your situation. It should contain information such as:
- The date of the child support order
- The amount of child support that is unpaid
- How long you have gone without child support
You should also explain to the court the reasons that you think that the other parent can afford to pay child support. It is important to note this requirement because the court may not hold a parent in contempt if he or she is not financially able to make the child support payments. In those situations, filing a contempt of court action may trigger a series of events that lead to alternations in the original child support order.
Learn more about enforcing child support orders and how you can use the court to obtain the support that you have been awarded by contacting our office. Call 813-280-5301 today!