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Penalties for Not Paying Child Support or Alimony in Florida

Every parent has an obligation to financially support their children. Short of your agreement to pay the amount determined by the Florida guidelines, a court may order one parent to make monthly payments to the other parent.

Regarding alimony, or spousal support, one party who is the higher wage earner may, under certain circumstances, be ordered to make monthly payments to the other party following a separation, during a divorce or after divorce proceedings unless the parties can agree otherwise. The payments are to help the recipient party gain marketable skills or at least to maintain the standard of living to which they had become accustomed, depending on the marriage duration and other factors.

Failing to pay alimony or child support pursuant to a court order is civil contempt. If you are the recipient party, you can file a motion for civil contempt and to enforce the support obligation. In order for the other party to be held in contempt, one must show that a court order is in effect, that the other party has not paid the ordered support, and that the delinquent party has the ability to pay it. The paying parent has the burden of showing that he or she lacks the present ability to make the mandated payments.

Nonpayment of Child Support or Alimony

If you are the paying party and intentionally do not make the ordered payments, you are subject to a wide variety of collection activities to recover the arrearages and to penalties including:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Interception of tax refunds
  • Placement of liens on vehicles or other items and a forced sale if arrearages are $600 or more
  • Payment of the other party’s attorney’s fees
  • Incarceration
  • Suspension of your driver’s license until arrearages are paid or you agree to a payment plan
  • Suspension of your professional license until you agree to a payment plan
  • Order you to report to the Florida State Employment Services and to report your weekly progress in securing employment or to have the department report on your progress
  • Freeze your financial accounts
  • Revocation of passport

Request a Modification in Support

If child support becomes too onerous, you can make a motion to modify support, but do not simply stop paying since you will likely face burdensome penalties and collection. Child support modification to decrease the payments may be ordered if you can demonstrate a material change in circumstances since the original court order. Factors the court will consider include:

  • Loss of employment
  • Decrease in salary
  • Increase in salary for the recipient party
  • You are incapacitated by illness or injury
  • The child’s expenses have decreased

You do have to demonstrate that the difference between the ordered amount and the amount shown in the guidelines based on your current circumstances is at least 15% or $50, whichever is greater, or the court will not order a change.

Modification of Alimony

You can request a modification in alimony based on a material change of circumstances such as:

  • Cohabitation of the former spouse
  • Death of former spouse
  • Remarriage of former spouse
  • Substantial change in income to either former spouse

If you find that you lost your job, are incapacitated, or you or your former spouse has had a significant change in income, contact a divorce lawyer about either modifying the support payments or working out a payment plan. Working with the court is your best option for avoiding incarceration and/or fines, suspension of your driving privileges and professional license as well as other penalties.