Everyone wants to be there for their children. Child support should not be seen as a burden. It is an opportunity to help your children in your absence. Remember, these payments are not going to the other parent. They are meant to be used strictly for the children. In fact, if the other parent is using this money for themselves, they face potential legal problems.
Even so, many people may find themselves in a bad situation, having difficulty keeping up with their child support payments. The court expects the children to be supported first and the adults next. Regardless of how much you are struggling with, delinquent payments can put you in a legal bind.
Penalties for Child Support Delinquency
The penalties for missing payments grow depending on how long you haven’t paid and how much you owe. After 15 days of non-payment, you are served a Notice of Delinquency. Penalties start to kick in after 20 days. You could have a lien placed against your property, including your car.
Depending on how long it’s been since you paid, you could be charged with fines. Your bank account can be seized, as could your income tax refund.
If gone unpaid for too long, child support delinquency becomes a felony. There are three standards for felony child support delinquency in Florida:
- You are four months past due, and you owe $2,500 or more.
- You were already convicted of non-payment.
- You are accused of attempting to leave the state to avoid payments.
People found guilty could face jail or even prison time.
Ways to Protect Yourself
If you are falling behind, don’t panic. Courtrooms don’t want to tie up their time to convict delinquent payers, and there are steps you can take to keep yourself out of jail.
The worst thing you can do is avoid paying altogether. Put as much as you can, whatever you can, into child support now. No matter how little, it can show the court that you are doing your best, especially if you’ve fallen on hard times.
Request a Modification
Child support decisions are made based on where each parent is economically at the time of divorce. You may have had a good job with the potential to earn much more, so the court used these facts to determine how much you should pay.
If you’ve gone through a major, significant life change, you can request an alteration to child support payments. Here are some justifiable reasons to request a modification.
Your Job Situation Has Changed
If you lost your job, or you were demoted, you may simply be unable to afford child support. The court is compassionate toward this situation. However, keep in mind that the job loss cannot be your fault. If you voluntarily quit, you may not be eligible for modification. Similarly, if you were fired or demoted due to poor performance, the court may not take pity on you.
To be eligible, your job loss must be through no fault of your own. Perhaps you were laid off or demoted through downsizing. Maybe your industry crashed, which happened to many live-entertainment jobs during the pandemic. Situations like these are justifiable reasons for the modification.
Alternatively, changes in income also apply to your ex. If they earned a better position, making more money, you can argue that they are spending more on childcare. This could lower your child support payments as well.
The custodial parent’s income is included in child support. It’s assumed that a percentage of their money goes toward the kids. Any time their income changes, it is justifiable cause to request a modification. A marriage can greatly affect someone’s personal income. The law assumes that married couples share their incomes as overall marital assets. If the custodial parent remarries, that means they share their new partner’s income. This could technically mean they make more money, and it could be a justified reason to request a modification.
A New Baby or a New Child Support Order
Child support is based on the number of children you have. A portion of your income is designated toward feeding, clothing, and housing them. If you have a new baby, you technically have another child who needs support. This could alter the calculations of the original child support order, lowering your payments. The same is true for any new children you are ordered to support.
When sent to active duty on foreign soil, soldiers are often paid more to cover their expenses. This can have an unpredictable effect on their finances. Some may find themselves flushed with cash, easily able to cover their child support orders along with their new expenses. Others may find that the salary boost isn’t enough to cover everything, and they have trouble keeping up with their financial obligations back home. If active duty is hindering your ability to pay child support, you could have it lowered.
Remember that, child support payments are dependent on your ability to pay. Inmates make little to no money, and if you’ve been put away, you can’t be expected to keep up with financial obligations. If you have no means to pay child support due to a criminal sentence, you can request a change.
What If the Original Order Was Bad?
The people who run courts are just as fallible as anyone else. The original order could have been miscalculated, and you’ve always had a difficult time keeping up. If the order is unrealistic with your financial situation, you can have it reviewed, regardless of any changes you have or haven’t experienced.
Get Help from a Lawyer
These days, making legal requests is easier than ever. There are online sources for almost every situation, including child support payment reviews. Before attempting to make such requests on your own, ask for help from a qualified attorney. At least, they can give your request a thorough review, making sure you didn’t miss anything. At most, they can help you write your request from the ground up, using their experience to help you craft credible, convincing, legally sound language.
Contact the Orlando Family and Divorce Law Firm of Conti Moore Law, PLLC for Help Today
If you’re having trouble keeping up with child support payments, or if you are in danger of facing legal consequences for delinquency, contact our office today for a free consultation.
Conti Moore Law, PLLC
815 N Magnolia Ave Suite 100
Orlando, FL 32803