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Enforcement of Child Support Orders in Florida

In Florida, as elsewhere, the non-payment of child support by a non-custodial parent is considered a uniquely intolerable offense. Therefore, the law provides for a number of serious and creative consequences designed to incentivize payment.

Civil Contempt

Most prominently, Florida law allows courts to hold the non-payer in civil contempt for his or her delinquency. Essentially, this allows the court to put various "incentives" into place to coerce the non-payer into complying with his or her child support obligations. The coercion can take the form of a fine; it can also take the form of incarceration.

The law is not without compassion for those unable to pay, however. The rules surrounding civil contempt require the court to "include in its order a separate affirmative finding that the contemnor has the present ability to comply." In other words, if the parent not paying truly cannot do so, then he cannot be put in jail.

For example, in Larsen v. Larsen, a Florida court of appeals examined a lower court's order holding a non-paying father in contempt and ordering incarceration. The appeals court noted that the lower court's order did not include the required evidence showing that he had the ability to pay. The lower court needed to "identify the sources" from which the father could pay in order to support its order for imprisonment. Without this—and considering the fact that the father had recently lost his job and subsequently been placed on a reduced work schedule—the order for incarceration could not stand.

Income Deduction and Asset Sales

Florida law also allows for child support to be automatically deducted from the income of the payer. Such an order can be incorporated into the child support determination itself—funneling the non-custodial parent's income directly into child support from the very beginning. Alternative, the order can be issued and held back—only taking effect if the payer falls behind in making payments.

If necessary, the law also authorizes courts to look to "nonrecurring income or assets." In Cole v. Cole, the father was incarcerated and facing deportation proceedings. Because regular child support payments would have been unlikely, the court authorized the seizure of the father's marital assets—including his interest in the marital home—to be held in trust for the payment of future child support payments.

Alternative Child Support Enforcement Mechanisms

In addition to the above mechanisms, the Florida Department of Revenue also reports several other tools at the disposal of those wishing to enforce child support payments. Driver's, hunting, and fishing licenses can be suspended. Federal tax refunds, lottery winnings, and other government benefits can be intercepted. Liens can be placed against valuable assets—from homes, to cars, to boats. Non-payment can be reported to credit bureaus, vehicle registrations can be suspended, and the U.S. Department of State can deny the non-custodial parent's passports. There can even be criminal consequences to not paying.

Contact an Attorney to Help with Child Support Payments

If you need help requesting, modifying, or seeking child custody payments or have any other family law-related inquiries, please reach out to the legal professionals at Miami based Hager & Schwartz, P.A. to learn how we can be of assistance.