How to Ensure Child Support Is Paid
The money a parent receives for child support almost always makes a pivotal difference in that parent’s ability to adequately provide for his/her child. Raising a child is an expensive endeavor that only increases as the child grows up. Child support is an enforceable obligation that lasts until the child is considered a legal adult, and is formally established via court order following divorce, separation or a paternity claim. Usually, payments are directed through the State Disbursement Unit, an arm of the Florida Department of Revenue, which also has enforcement powers if the obligated parent stops paying. However, a recent news report out of Orlando discussed how the state child support enforcement program has failed to collect even a fraction of the tens of thousands of dollars owed to many parents, leaving them in extremely precarious financial situations, and forcing them to seek assistance from friends and family to make ends meet. The good news is parents waiting for overdue child support are not limited to the enforcement efforts of the state, and have the option of hiring their own attorney to aggressively pursue back child support. The rate of success for collecting overdue child support is typically much higher when an attorney is involved, because the attorney has the time and advanced legal knowledge to target the collection method most likely to induce payment. An overview of the legal options a parent can take to compel compliance with a child support order will follow below.
Income Deduction Order
The standard option for child support enforcement is to enter an income deduction order in conjunction with the court order establishing child support. An income deduction order is sometimes waived when child support is established, but can be issued later if payments stop coming. Briefly, an income deduction order requires the obligated parent’s employer to directly deduct child support from wages, and transfer the money to the state disbursement unit for distribution to the other parent. The option works well if the obligated parent sustains steady employment, and does not actively attempt to avoid payment by frequently changing jobs, refusing to work, or working under an alias. In other words, in order for income deduction orders to be fully effective, the obligated parent must cooperate with the implementation and execution of the court order.
Once payments stop, with action taken sooner rather than later, a parent can petition the court to start the enforcement process, which begins with establishing how much child support is owed, and determining whether the non-payment is willful and not the result of an involuntary circumstance (job loss, major illness). If it appears the obligated parent has no intention of voluntarily paying, the court can hold him/her in contempt (refusal to obey a court order). However, note that the court will likely start with setting up a payment plan with the parent to give him/her an opportunity to correct the situation before moving to contempt. Once the contempt order is in place, a judge has a number of options to choose from when seeking to force compliance, including:
- garnishing financial accounts;
- placing liens on real estate and personal property, which could lead to a forced sale;
- freezing home equity, which blocks the obligated parent from accessing this money; and
- intercepting federal income tax refunds.
Contact a Family Law Attorney
If you are having difficulty getting the child support you are entitled to receive, contact a family law attorney as soon as possible to start enforcing your rights. The sooner action is taken, the sooner you will get the money you need to provide for your child. The team at the family law firm of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. understands how critical child support is to your family’s well-being, and will work to get you the result you deserve. If you live in the Fort Lauderdale area, contact the office for a free consultation.