In Florida, each parent is required to emotionally, physically, and financially support their child. Parents are to share parental responsibility equally and one way the courts require such responsibility is through child support orders. However, some may feel these orders are unfair or too expensive. Whether you feel as though the other parent does not need or deserve your child support payments or you are unable to afford these payments, do not stop making them. Discuss your situation with a Florida Child Custody Attorney and they will be able to explain the serious legal consequences you may face if you fail to make these court ordered payments.
If the other parent wishes to take action, they will likely file a Motion for Contempt. Contempt, is the “refusal to obey any legal order, mandate, or decree, made or given by any judge relative to any of the business of the court, after due notice thereof, is a contempt, punishable accordingly” Fla. Stat. 38.23 (2019) Therefore, the court will need to determine if you have failed to pay the court ordered child support. If the court finds you to be in contempt of a court order, they will likely find this to be indirect contempt as the act was committed outside the presence of the court. They will then determine if you are in civil contempt or criminal contempt. The penalties attached to either are very different and are crucial to a contempt determination. For instance, if found to be in criminal contempt the court is seeking punitive action, while civil contempt seeks remedial relief. Alves v. Barnett Mortg. Co., 688 So. 2d 459 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997)
Therefore, civil contempt attempts to coerce a party to comply with a court order, so a court may order the attorney fees be paid by the offending party and simply order a method to pay the back-child support. Johnson v. Bednar, 573 So. 2d 822 (Fla. 1991) However, criminal contempt is found to be “appropriate where the party in default has continually and willfully neglected court ordered support obligations or has affirmatively divested himself of assets and property” Lascaibar v. Lascaibar, 715 So. 2d 1042 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998) In these cases, the court may suspend your driver’s license or vehicle registration, restricting you from transportation; order you pay significant fines to the court; order the seizure of property in order to satisfy the child support obligation, or even order you to serve jail time until you can purge yourself of the contempt.
If you are willfully, refusing to pay your child support obligation for any reason; this can result in serious legal penalties affecting your future. Do not make any rash decisions that can affect your child and your future. If you are in need of a modification of a child support order, seek out an experienced Florida Child Custody Attorney to walk you through this process.
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