When a court order to pay spousal or child support is violated it can have devastating effects. Often, a parent or former spouse will depend on the funds each month to make ends meet. Fortunately, Florida family law provides many different tools for child support enforcement. If you are not receiving child support or alimony a court awarded you contact a family law attorney for assistance. A family law firm in Tampa may be able to assist you by petitioning a court to employ one of the options for enforcement of child support or alimony listed below.
Under Florida child support law, a court is authorized to garnish wages as a method of enforcement of child support. A wage garnishment automatically deducts the funds you are entitled to receive from the payor’s paycheck. The court can require the enforcement of child support by garnishment to occur on a periodic basis and continue for as long as the court deems necessary. Further, orders for child support are not susceptible to the head of household defense to garnishments. See Waddell v. Schwarz.
Suspended Driver’s License
Failure to pay support or alimony can result in a driver’s license suspension as enforcement of child support or alimony. See Florida family law 61.13016. Additionally, under Florida Statute 61.13015, the payor’s professional license can be suspended as a form of enforcement of child support. However, a court can deny the license suspension petition if it would result in irreparable harm to the payor and not help accomplish the objective of collecting payment. Additionally, the court may refuse to suspend a license if the payor demonstrates a good faith effort to make payments.
Enforcement of Child Support by Civil or Criminal Contempt
Failure to comply with a court order of support can be enforced by either civil or criminal contempt. However, civil contempt is used much more frequently than criminal contempt. In order to convict a person of criminal contempt, the evidence must prove the defendant has the ability to pay and the failure to pay is willful and intentional. See Bowen v. Bowen. Further, since it is a criminal action, the prosecution must be in compliance with Rule 3.840 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. If convicted of criminal contempt for failure to pay court ordered alimony the incarceration must not exceed 180 days. The incarceration is designed to encourage payment of the funds that are due, rather than retributive. Therefore, often a court will purge the contempt if a specified amount is paid by the defendant.
On the other hand, the burden for obtaining civil contempt as a means of enforcement of child support only requires proof that there is a prior court order directing the defendant to pay alimony, and the defendant has failed to pay according to the terms of the court order. However, a defendant can defeat a civil contempt action by demonstrating that due to circumstances beyond his/ her control he/ she no longer has the ability to tender the payments required by the court order. For this defense to apply, the defendant must prove the failure to pay is unintentional. Further, the defendant must also prove the failure to pay is due to an intervening circumstance not contemplated at the time the original order requiring support was entered.
Garnishment of Tax Returns
If a party does not adhere to a court order to pay child support their federal income tax dependent exemption may be allocated to the other parent. See Florida Statute 61.30. Further, the court can order the exemption to be allocated to the payee either on a permanent or rotating basis. The dependent tax exemption can be a substantial amount of money. Therefore, in some cases this can be a significant penalty for failure to comply with a child support order.
Defenses to Enforcement of Child Support or Alimony Orders
The payor may have legal defenses which will prevent a Florida family law court from taking enforcement action. Defenses to payment include but are not limited to: laches, the child has reached the age of majority, and a present inability to pay the amount owed. There may be other defenses available as well. For advice on a particular case or circumstance contact a family law attorney in Tampa for advice.
Tampa Family Law Firm
A skilled family law attorney in Tampa can make a big difference in enforcement of child support or alimony. If you are seeking enforcement of an alimony or child support order, or trying to prevent contempt for failure to pay contact Florida Law Advisers, P.A. to speak with a family law attorney in Tampa, Florida. The family law attorneys at Florida Law Advisers, P.A. have years of experience in both advocating for and against enforcement of alimony and child support orders. With years of experience in family law litigation, we are more than ready to stand firm for what is fair. If you would like to speak with a divorce lawyer at our firm call us today at 800 990 7763.