Enforcing Child Support Orders
Most parents will say that raising a child on their own is a daunting task that presents many difficult challenges. Being the final decision-maker, while lacking another parent to support these determinations or provide feedback on other possible alternatives, can make it hard to remain consistent. In addition to the emotional and mental issues, trying to raise a child alone imposes a huge financial burden on parents that do not receive regular child support payments. The costs of raising a child to the age of 18 increase every year at a rate that typically exceeds cost of living wage increases, and without the financial contribution of the other parent, the primary caregiver will likely struggle to support his/her child. The state has a vested interest in making sure child support is paid in order to decrease the likelihood a parent will need government assistance to make ends meet. Consequently, the law has a number of provisions related to enforcing child support orders designed to compel compliance by imposing financial requirements on a parent’s employer, seizing certain funds, and/or restricting licenses issued by state agencies. In serious cases, some parents will leave the state in order to avoid paying child support. But, one man from Indiana took this method to the extreme when he abandoned his family to escape child support, moved to Florida where he assumed the identity of a dead man, and started a new family that lived in ignorance for the next twenty years. While the circumstances of this case are unusual and unlikely to occur again, it is important for all single parents to understand the child support enforcement methods Florida courts have at their disposal.
Income Deduction Orders
The first procedure Florida courts use in most proceedings related to child support is to issue an income deduction order to the employer of parents obligated to pay child support. This notice requires the employer to automatically deduct the stated child support amount from the parent’s wages and transfer the funds to the State Disbursement Unit for pay out to the other parent. In addition to the basic child support payment, deduction orders may also include provisions to pay amounts in arrears. These orders stay in effect as long as the underlying child support order is valid or a new order is issued.
If child support payments stop for any reason, including when a parent voluntarily quits his/her job, refuses to find adequate employment, or leaves the state to avoid paying, the Florida Department of Revenue, the agency tasked administering the child support program, has the authority to seize certain monies to cover overdue amounts. These include:
- federal income tax refunds;
- Florida lottery winnings;
- up to 40 percent of the unemployment benefits a parent is eligible to receive;
- workers’ compensation; and
- garnishment of funds held by the parent in financial institutions.
Once a parent is 15 days past due on child support, the other parent has the option of filing a petition with the court requesting suspension of the delinquent parent’s driver’s license until the overdue amount is paid. The delinquent parent has 20 days to either pay the amount requested, set up a payment plan, or contest the alleged non-compliance. Further, it is also possible to ask a court to suspend a delinquent parent’s professional license issued in some professions, including law, medicine, education, and mental health. Note that because of the important services these individuals provide to the community, suspension of these licenses is not commonly imposed unless the person seems intent on not paying the child support.
Speak with a Family Law Attorney
If you are struggling to collect child support from an ex-partner or spouse, it is best to talk to an attorney when the initial difficulties start to help prevent the accumulation of a large amount in arrears. The Fort Lauderdale law firm of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. works with clients to develop plans that make sense for their family. Call the office for a free consultation.