If you have been ordered by a court to pay child support, you are expected to make those payments on time and in full. Excuses are rarely tolerated by family court judges. After all, it is your child’s right to receive financial support from both parents.
Is Jail a Potential Penalty for Failing to Pay Child Support?
In short, yes, you can go to jail for failing to pay your court-ordered child support. The good news is that you will have several chances to amend the issue and make up the payments you owe. If you child support case is being enforced by the Department of Revenue (DOR), DOR will take several enforcement measures before resorting to holding you in contempt of court, which can carry penalties ranging from paying a purge amount and/or going to jail time.
Florida’s Efforts to Prevent Unpaid Child Support
In Florida, parents can register their child support orders with the State Disbursement Unit, which means the state facilitates payments and can step in with enforcement actions if payments are not made.
More than ¾ of child support payments in Florida are made through wage garnishment also known as an Income Deduction Order (IDO). Wage garnishment or IDOs are a form of collection that involves withholding the support payment from the payor’s paycheck. This method reduces the likelihood that a parent will fail to make their child support payment, as the payment is automatically taken from their paycheck.
If you are more than 30 days late on a child support payment, your debt may be reported to a credit agency. The credit agency can contact you to collect on those past-due payments.
You could also:
- Be prevented from renewing your driver’s license
- Have a lien placed on your car or other property
- Have your support payments deducted from any money the state owes you or your lottery winnings
- Have your tax refund withheld
If all these measures have been exhausted and you have still not paid your child support, the Court can find you in contempt of court. You will only be found in contempt if the court determines that you were able to pay but refused to do so. Judges have broad discretion in assigning penalties for anyone found in contempt of court. You could face a specific jail sentence of up to five months and 29 days.
Don’t Be Found in Contempt of Court. Request a Modification.
Rather than face the hardships of being found in contempt of court, take action to prevent these harsh punishments in the first place. If you are struggling to make ends meet or to pay your child support in full, your best bet might be to request a modification of your support order.
If you can show that a change in your circumstances makes it impossible for you to pay your child support while maintaining financial security, a judge may grant a modification and lower your support obligation.
The bottom line is that you have options. Don’t let the issue spiral out of control – seek help and retain a trusted child support attorney. At Conti Moore Law, PLLC, we have decades of experience to put to work for you.