Courts will use all means necessary, including garnishment, to enforce child support arrears.
Florida law stipulates that a parent must have a written child support order/judgment that is signed by a Circuit Court Judge before the order becomes enforceable. Simply put, a parent has no legal recourse against a parent who fails to pay child support if there is no written child support order signed by the Circuit Court judge.
Once a parent does have a legally valid child support order, the amount owed when the other parent does not pay child support is known as “child support arrears”.
How Does Child Support Arrears Differ From Retroactive Child Support?
Retroactive child support occurs once a child support order or judgment is entered. At that point, the Circuit Court Judge can order a “back amount” of child support, meaning child support must be paid for a period of time before the child support order was entered. This “back amount” is known as retroactive child support.
Unlike retroactive child support, child support arrears refers to the amount owed from a child support order that the other parent has not paid.
Enforcing Florida Child Support Arrears
Florida law places no statute of limitations on child support that is past due. As a result, Florida’s Department of Revenue (DOR) is legally permitted to pursue a parent indefinitely in order to enforce child support arrears.
If you are parent wishing to collect from a parent who has fallen behind on their child support payment, file a motion for contempt with the court. Your Florida family lawyer will guide you through this process.
The court will then schedule a hearing to decide the matter. The judge will then decide the extent of the delinquent parent’s arrears. If the non-paying parent does not pay and does not agree to a payment arrangement, the court can send the parent to jail for up to 179 days or until the parent pays a set amount indicated by the judge.
Additional penalties that can be placed on a non-paying parent include:
- Suspension of a driver’s license
- The loss of vehicle registration and/or license plate
- The loss of licenses, whether business, occupational, fishing or hunting in nature
- The interception of tax refunds and lottery winnings for unpaid child support
- Seizure of funds in the parent’s bank account for the amount of arrears owed
Can a Florida Clerk of Court Impose Interest on Child Support Arrears?
Yes, Florida law does allow a Clerk of Court to impose interest on arrears. This is a common question for Florida family lawyers, so know that if you collect support through state services, you will not need to ask the court for a judgment of your own. Instead, the DOR can handle the matter based on the operation of law as outlined in the state of Florida. Simply sign up to receive the state’s help with monitoring and enforcing child support payments if you need their assistance. The state is legally obligated to help a parent collect child support by statute.
In such matters, the clerk of the court is legally permitted to enter an arrears judgment without asking the judge if the other parent has fallen behind. Once the Clerk of Court enters a judgment by operation of law on arrears, interest will begin accruing on the balance the parent legally owes. Due to this, it is in a parent’s best interests to make their child support payments in a timely manner whenever possible.
If you have questions regarding child support arrears, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]