Once a court issues a child support order, the child is entitled to receive regular child support payments. Unfortunately, failure to pay child support is a very real and common problem. In these situations, you may need to take legal action to get the financial support your child needs. At Quinn & Lynch, our enforcement lawyer can review your situation and advise the best way to deal with it. A variety of strategic approaches exist to enforce child support payments.
Legal Options for Enforcement
To enforce child support, Quinn & Lynch, P.A. can take legal action for the court to order the following sanctions:
Garnishment is a legal action that takes child support payments directly from paychecks. Wage garnishment is enforced when a parent fails to pay child support as ordered by the courts. Florida law states that employers must abide by child support collection laws if they receive a wage garnishment order. Even if the wage garnishment order is from out of state, the employer must follow it.
For private support orders, both involved parties may need to file a termination motion.
Freezing bank accounts
When a parent is behind on their child support payments, the courts can freeze their bank accounts until support is paid. In this case, the parent in debt must arrange payment for the past-due amount. If they cannot afford the payment, they may be able to file for a modification of the court’s Child Support Order to reduce the cost of future payments, but this will not reduce the payments they are behind on.
In certain situations, a judge may be able to put a lien on a property for child support payments that are past due. A property lien may be ordered if these payments add up to at least $600. If the parent is not a real estate property owner, the judge may place liens on other types of property, such as a car or a boat registered under the parent’s name.
There are several penalties a parent can face if they default on child support payments. One of these is license suspension – their driver’s license, recreational licenses (fishing, hunting, etc.) and professional licenses can all be denied if they are more than 15 days late on child support payments.
Before this happens, the parent will receive a notice giving them the opportunity to either pay the outstanding balance in full or to make arrangements to do so. After receiving the notice, the parent only has 20 days to either pay or file a petition to contest the accusations.
If a parent owes more than $2,500 in child support payments, authorities can also deny their passports and prevent them from submitting a passport application. Even after the payment is made, they must still wait anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks for their new passport application to be processed.
IRS tax refunds confiscation or seizure
Another way that authorities can help you get the child support you need is by using the indebted parents IRS tax refund. For as long as the child support enforcement office is involved in collecting your payments, the IRS will automatically seize these refunds and send you the payments directly. If the child support enforcement office is not involved in collecting your payments, you will need to file a petition to collect these overdue payments through the IRS.
Because all lottery winnings are reported to the IRS on federal tax returns as income, authorities can use winnings exceeding $600 to pay child support arrears. The defaulted parent will be notified by the IRS if child support will be collected from their winnings.
Another way a parent can be punished for failing to pay child support is by having their credit rating lowered. In Florida, the Department of Revenue is responsible for reporting child support debt to credit agencies. Any overdue amount can negatively affect the parent’s credit score, making it more difficult for them to own a home or buy a car.
Courts can hold spouses in contempt of court for not paying child support, and this action subjects the party to fines and jail time. In Florida, contempt actions can be filed when the defaulted parent does not willingly abide by the court order.
We also help clients challenge enforcement proceedings when appropriate. Sometimes a parent who is in non-compliance with a child support order has suffered substantial changes in circumstances that warrant a child support modification. Job loss, sudden illness or other financial distress may prevent a parent from paying child support. You may need to challenge enforcement proceedings on this basis, and our firm can also help you when in this situation.
Enforcement/contempt: If a party fails to comply with the child support obligations set by a Final Judgement, or if the involved parties disagree with the compliance or non-compliance of these obligations, it may be necessary to request a court order to enforce them.
If a party willfully and knowingly violates a clear obligation set by the Final Judgement, the other party may not only request a court order enforcing the obligation but also request an order to hold the non-compliant party in contempt of court.
These orders of enforcement and/or contempt are most commonly made when a party alleges that the other party has failed to pay the monthly alimony or child support owed to them as ordered by the court. The resolve these disputes, the court has to first define and interpret the obligation in question, then assess whether or not the accused party has complied, and if not, determine whether that non-compliance was deliberate.
The punishments for willful non-compliance of a court order can range from fees and fines to incarceration.
At Quinn & Lynch, our divorce attorneys have significant experience with cases involving all forms of child support enforcement & contempt proceedings. Seeking the advice of our experienced family law attorneys who are skilled in the divorce process and representation is essential in order to protect yourself. Contact the Enforcement & Contempt Family Law attorneys of Quinn & Lynch, to schedule a consultation for representation in a divorce case by calling (813) 223-7739 or contact us online.