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A Short Guide to Getting Your Child Support Order Enforced in Florida

| Jul 20, 2017 | Firm News

While parenting delivers plenty of rewards, co-parenting often comes with a long list of challenges. When your child’s other parent refuses to pay child support in accordance with an existing court order, it can add even more stress to an already taxing situation. It’s not just about money—it’s about providing for your child’s basic needs. What legal steps can you take to make sure you’re financially stable enough to meet those needs?

When it comes to child support order enforcement, Florida’s laws are relatively strict. You have multiple methods of legal recourse at your disposal. In order to enforce your child support order, you’ll need to take several steps with the help of your attorney. It’s important to retain a lawyer who specializes in family law and understands what you need to achieve from your enforcement actions.

First Steps

Before you go through the court system, you may want to speak with your lawyer about contacting your local child support office. The Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) is authorized to take a variety of actions in order to enforce child support orders. Otherwise, you’ll have to enforce your order by sending a written request to the court. This is called filing a “motion for civil contempt.” Once it has been approved, you’ll receive the date for a hearing that you and the other parent will have to attend.

The Hearing

When you arrive at the hearing, you and your attorney will have to demonstrate that your existing child support order is valid and signed by a judge. You will also have to show that although the other parent has the ability to pay, they have not been paying child support according to the court order. If the other parent believes they do not have the ability to pay, the onus is on them (meaning it’s their legal duty) to prove it. If you can prove your case in front of the hearing officer, they will send a recommendation to the circuit judge, who will sign an order to hold the non-paying parent in contempt.

Court Orders

When a non-paying parent is held in contempt of court, the judge can take a wide range of actions to enforce your child support order. The judge can create an order that will offer you a remedy for the missed payments and ensure future payments, punish the other parent, or some combination of the two. The court order may also order the non-paying parent to reimburse you for costs resulting from your contempt motion, like attorney’s fees, travel expenses, and expert witness costs.

Potential Legal Actions

Whether you’re using a court order or going through the DOR, the non-paying parent can be subject to several different legal actions, such as the following:

  • Send them a notice of late payment.
  • Suspend their driver’s license.
  • Ask them to attend an appointment at the local child support office to discuss payment options.
  • Suspend their business, professional, or recreational license.
  • Withhold the overdue payment from their wages (called a “garnishment”).
  • Deduct the payment from other income sources like their reemployment benefits, worker’s compensation, federal income tax refunds, or lottery winnings.
  • Place a lien on their personal property, like a car or boat.
  • Report their missed payment to the credit bureaus.
  • File a legal action in circuit court, which can lead to their arrest.

Because of the serious potential consequences for failing to pay child support, noncustodial parents are encouraged to apply for court order modifications when a change in circumstances makes them unable to pay. If you have questions about modifications, it’s best to ask a qualified family attorney.

When you’re missing the funds you need to pay for your child’s care, there’s a lot at stake in your search for legal recourse. Make sure you contact a skilled attorney who will take the time to understand your individual needs. At Rotella & Hernandez, we deliver a combination of legal prowess, knowledgeable counsel, and attentive service. Contact our family law firm for dependable results.