Parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children. The obligation does not disappear if the parents get divorced or the parents never lived together. In fact, a parent does not have to live with a child or even have a relationship with that child to be financially liable for the child.
How Do Florida Courts Determine Child Support Payments?
The child support guidelines consider several factors to determine the proper amount of money for child support payments, including:
The earning ability and income of each parent
The child’s standard of living
The cost of extracurricular activities
A judge may deviate from the guidelines based on other factors in the case.
A court may lower or increase the amount of the expected child support payment by five percent based on factors, such as:
Expenses of a special needs child
The age of the child
Seasonal changes in income of either parent
Extraordinary health care or educational expenses
Independent income of the child
Other relevant factors that impact the equitable payment of child support
Florida courts take child support payments seriously. If a party falls behind on making child support payments, the consequences could be severe. Courts and government agencies diligently pursue individuals who have child support arrears.
What Are Child Support Arrears?
Arrears is the unpaid child support payments owed by one parent to the other parent. The arrearage amount is the total of all unpaid payments.
However, child support arrearage and retroactive child support are not the same things. Retroactive child support is an amount of child support ordered by the court for a period before the child support order was issued. Arrearage is missed child support payments after the court issued an order requiring child support.
How Are Child Support Arrears Collected in Florida?
There is no statute of limitations on child support payments. Therefore, the state can punish a person at any time for failure to pay child support.
Some of the actions the state could take to collect child support arrears include:
Garnishment of wages
Placing liens against real estate
Seizing bank accounts
Taking tax refunds and applying them to child support arrearage
Seizing assets from the deceased parent’s estate
A judgment may be entered that accrues interest when the payments are payable through the State Disbursement Unit
In addition to attempting to collect the child support arrearage, there are other steps that the state may take if a person does not pay back child support payments. The court may hold the person in contempt of court and sentence the person to jail time.
The state may suspend the person’s vehicle registration, driver’s license, and/or license plate. The state may also suspend the person’s passport and revoke licenses, such as occupational and business licenses.
What Should a Person Do if They are Behind on Child Support Payments?
Seeking legal advice from a Florida child support attorney is the best way to protect yourself. An attorney reviews your case to determine if a modification of child support payments is justified. If there is a reason why you cannot make your child support payments, you need to notify the court.
A modification of child support payments does not forgive child support arrearage. However, you should take a proactive approach instead of waiting for the court to schedule a contempt hearing. You might be able to work out an affordable payment schedule to catch up on child support arrearage.
What Can I Do if my Child’s Other Parent Owes Child Support Arrearage?
You can contact the Florida Department of Revenue for help. The Department of Revenue assists parents in collecting back child support payments. However, the Department of Revenue often has a backlog of cases. It could take months before you receive any help.
You might want to consider contacting a child support enforcement attorney. An attorney reviews your case to determine your options for collecting child support payments. Your lawyer may advise filing an action in family court.
The one thing that you do not want to do is deny visitation based on nonpayment of child support. Custody and visitation and support are two separate legal matters. If you deny visitation, you could also face contempt charges for failing to abide by a court order.
It can be frustrating to allow your child’s other parent to continue visitation, even though he or she is failing to pay child support payments. Instead, talk with a lawyer immediately. Get the facts about child support arrears and work on options to collect the child support arrears without getting yourself into trouble.