Can I be Arrested for Not Paying Florida Child Support?
All parents have both rights and responsibilities with regards to their minor children, regardless of whether the relationship is over or they do not live together. One key obligation is payment of child support, usually by the nonresidential parent to the other for the child’s needs. Whether a child support order was entered in connection with a divorce case or paternity suit, it is legally binding. As such, you probably realize that there can be consequences violating the order through nonpayment. However, many people wonder just how far the penalties can go: Can you go to jail for failing to pay child support in Florida?
In short, the answer is YES. Child support laws have “teeth,” since various government agencies have enforcement power. When you realize that jail time is a possibility for violating the court’s order, you can understand the importance of retaining a Florida criminal defense attorney right away. Some general information may also help.
How the Legal Process Can Lead to An Arrest: Failure to pay child support does not immediately result in police knocking on your door, as there are multiple steps to the process. After missing a payment, your child’s other parent may file a motion in the court where the child support order was entered – NOT in a criminal court. If the judge finds that you violated the order, he or she can find you in contempt of court. The term refers to any action that defies, disrespects, or offends the dignity of a court. It is a criminal offense when the judge makes the finding regarding a child support order.
Note that the Florida Department of Revenue Child Support Program also has the power to take enforcement action and/or assist the child’s other parent with the legal process. Some parents rely on the agency for assistance with obtaining child support, rather than paying a private lawyer.
Potential Charges and Penalties: Once the court finds you in contempt for not paying child support, there are multiple types of nonjail punishment you face – in addition to paying back due amounts with interest. Examples include:
- Suspending your driver’s license;
- Revoking your vehicle registration;
- Ordering you to pay a fine;
- Seizing your bank accounts;
- Garnishing your wages; and,
- Holding your income tax refund.
Still, because contempt of court is a crime, you also face criminal charges. The offense is a First Degree Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. Third Degree Felony charges apply for a fourth conviction, or if you owe more than 12 months of support or $5,000.
Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer for Legal Help
As you can see, the punishment for not paying child support is harsher than you think. Contempt of court is a serious charge and can be a criminal offense just like any other violation of the law. For more information on potential defense strategies and other options for fighting the charges, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can set up a consultation to review your circumstances and explain how the laws work.