Who Can Bring a Child Support Enforcement Action?

A father waves goodbye to his wife and child while standing beside his car.

When a parent is ordered to pay child support and fails to meet this obligation, action must be taken in order to enforce the court order. However, there are many options available to enforce these orders and different parties may seek this enforcement. If you are entitled to receipt of child support payments, and the obligated party has neglected to meet these payments, speak to an attorney to discuss your options of enforcement.

In most cases, the parent entitled to receipt of the court ordered child support payments or Florida’s Department of Revenue through Florida’s Child Support Enforcement, will bring the action. The motion filed is known as a Motion for Enforcement/Contempt. This motion will provide the court with notice of the existing court order obligating the partying to make the payments in question, as well as the obligated parent’s failure to meet this obligation absent their present ability to do so. Whether the receiving parent or the State files this motion, both parties will need to be in attendance at the hearing. If the court finds the parent has failed to make these ordered payments, they will hold the obligated party in contempt. The court will issue an order stating the overdue amount, and the method of repayment, including withholding of income, tax refunds, lottery winnings, or place liens on property. The judge may also include contempt penalties such as fines, payment of the other parent’s attorney’s fees, court costs, suspension of licenses, and even jail time.

There are some differences between an action brought by Florida’s Child Support Enforcement and a private party. If brought by the state, a hearing officer will make an initial determination that will then be formulated into a written recommendation for a judge to review. However, if a private party brings an action, they will likely be heard by a judge directly. The other difference is the ease of access the state has to resources to prove the delinquency in payments. For instance, they may check all Florida financial records to determine the ability of the parent to pay the support order. However, you will generally have no say as to the action brought by the state as you would with a private action.

It is important to note, that an enforcement action regarding a child support order has no statute of limitations. A parent, or the state, may seek such an action beyond the date of the minor child’s 18th birthday and may even claim a portion of the obligated parent’s estate to satisfy the outstanding support. Finally, after the child reaches the age of majority, they also may seek an action against the parent for outstanding child support payments. Although this type of action is rare, many states have recognized a child’s standing to enforce such an order as they are an intended third party beneficiary, and the support payments belong to the child. Drake v. Drake, 89 A.D.2d 207, 455 N.Y.S.2d 420 (N.Y. App. Div. 1982). Morelli v. Morelli, 102 Nev. 326, 720 P.2d 704 (1986). Monmouth County Div. of Social Servs. for F.M. n/k/a D.W. v. G.D.M., 308 N.J. Super. 83, 705 A.2d 408 (1997)

As discussed above, there are a few options to enforce a child support order and different parties may seek to enforce these court orders. Therefore, if you are entitled to child support payments and have not received them, contact a lawyer today to discuss your enforcement options.

Speaking to an attorney at our Pensacola office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at (800) 822-5170 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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