Penalties for Failure to Pay Child Support in Florida

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Penalties for Failure to Pay Child Support in Florida

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Failing to pay child support in Florida can result in severe consequences. If a Florida court orders one parent to pay child support, and they don't, then that parent could face penalties, seized property and assets, and even jail time. If the non-custodial parent's circumstances have changed, and they can no longer afford the child support amount, then it's best to approach the court for a modification as opposed to not paying.

Woman talking on the phone at her computer holding a crying infant

Enforcing Child Support

Before a parent can petition the court to seize overdue child support, the parent must have a valid child support order signed by a judge. Verbal agreements between parents that are made outside of the courtroom are not enforceable.

You can establish an enforceable child support order by filing a petition for support with your local county courthouse. You can call the courthouse to see if they have a standard form. Additionally, you can hire an experienced family law attorney to help you establish support payments.

Refusal to Pay Child Support

If a non-custodial parent refuses to pay court-ordered child support, the custodial parent has options. First, the custodial parent can call the Florida Department of Revenue's Child Support Enforcement (FCSE) program for help. The FCSE can check all of Florida's financial records, such as bank accounts, to see if the delinquent parent has any money to satisfy the late payments. If the FCSE can't get the parent to pay, then the office can file for a hearing through Florida's Department of Revenue.

The proceedings are in front of a hearing officer, not a judge. However, the hearing officer will make recommendations to a judge on how to move forward. The parties have a specific amount of time to object to the hearing officer's recommendation. If no objection is made, then the proposal stands.

Second, and more commonly, the custodial parent can file for a civil contempt proceeding against the non-custodial parent. The custodial parent can choose to submit on his or her own or can engage a qualified family law attorney to help them. The custodial parent must show proof that payments have not been made and that the other parent is capable of providing financial support.

Penalties for Failure to Pay

If a parent violates the support order, and the court finds them in contempt, then the court can issue several penalties in an attempt to collect the money owed. For example, a judge can:

  • Issue fines
  • Suspend a driver's license or passport
  • Suspend professional licenses
  • Seize bank accounts
  • Seize tax refunds
  • Place a lien on property or assets, such as cars or houses
  • Withhold money from paychecks
  • Withhold workers' compensation payments
  • Report the failure to credit agencies
  • Pay all attorney and court fees for the other parent
  • Order jail time of up to one year

Even if your divorce was simple with few arguments between you and your ex-spouse, relationships can change. Florida's child support laws are strict so as to legally protect you and your child should an ex-spouse fail to make payments. Before enforcing a child support order, review the state's laws as requirements may change. Don't hesitate to reach out to the court, the FCSE, or an experienced attorney for help.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.