Articles Posted in Child Support Arrears

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Paying child support in a timely fashion is important; not only is it important to the well being of your children, it is also important to your continuing freedom.

Although the Florida Constitution prohibits one from being imprisoned for a debt, the constitution will not protect you from being imprisoned as a result of non payment of your child support.

Although the Florida Constitution does provide safeguards for unlawful imprisonmement, if it is determined that the refusal to pay is willful, you most likely will be incarcerated for a period of time until something towards the child support arrears has been paid.

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A modification of child support, or alimony as well, is based upon an unforseen, involuntary, permanent and substantial change in circumstances. Florida statute 61.14 provides the statutory basis for a modification of child support and alimony.

If the court, after entertaining a petition for modification of support, either upward or downward, finds that there was a change in circumstances, or the financial position of either party has changed, the court can enter an order, retroactive to the date of filing the petition, granting the modification.

Often times it takes a considerable amount of time to have a matter scheduled for hearing before the court. The length of time varies between the particular judge and the courthouse in which the petition is pending.

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The payment and collection of child support in Florida as well as around the country is not always an easy process. Its surprising to see all the stories in the media today, which deal with individuals in the “public eye” who are not paying their child support.

For example, the gold medal champion, Gabby Douglas, made a recent announcement at the Olympics, that her father was a “deadbeat dad”,who neglected his responsibilities. This story was recently reported in the New York Post.

This is just one of the many stories I have come across this week, all of which deal with either celebrities or prominent sports figures who, for one reason or another, seem intent on neglecting their most important resources…their children.

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Child support is designed to cover the basic necessities of life for a minor child, such as food, clothing and shelter.

Every state has “Child Support Guidelines in place, and Florida is not excluded. Florida Statute 61.30 deals with the support of minor children, and includes the child support guidelines adopted by the Florida legislature.

A compilation of various statistics regarding child support was recently reported in an article found at As an example, the story indicates that child support is paid primarily by men, 85% to be precise. This is indicative of the mother generally being responsible for raising the children.

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Is anyone exempt from paying child support? The answer is clearly NO. Each parent has a responsibility to support their children, not just one parent.1380007_one_dollar.jpg

This is even true if one parent is wealthy, and the other parent is down and out. Remember the television show, Jon & Kate plus 8? This situation exemplifies the example that both parents owe a duty of support.

In a recent news story published in “RealityTea” about child support, Jon Gosselin confessed that he was having difficulty sustaining himself, let alone all of his children.

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Child support payments for a child in Florida is an extremely protected right. The state of Florida has imposed significant penalties against those who choose not to pay child support, including the loss of driving privileges, the loss of professional and other business licenses, and the loss of freedom..

Prior to the imposition of penalties for non payment of child support, the court must conduct an evidentiary hearing, and provide the non paying parent with an opportunity to explain why the support is not being paid. If the court determines that the non payment has in fact been willful, the parent will be found in contempt, and the next step for the court to consider becomes the penalties to be imposed.

If a determination is made by the court that the non paying parent has either cash or other assets available to pay towards the support owed, that then becomes the “purge payment”. The purge payment is the amount necessary to be released from jail, if the judge determines that is the appropriate sanction.

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The payment and collection of child support in the state of Florida often times can become a frustrating process. On the surface, the receipt of child support payments should be a straightforward matter.

The most effective remedy for the collection of child support is to invoke the contempt powers of the court. What exactly do we mean by invoking this process in the court system?

Initially there must be a court order which directs the obligor to pay a certain amount of child support, usually on a monthly basis. If the support payments become delinquent, the recipient has the right to bring the obligor (payor) before the judge, and to seek incarceration.

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Child support awards in Florida are always subject to modification, based upon many different reasons. In connection with a proceeding for the modification of child support, the question of retroactive support becomes important.

In other words, if an increase in child support may be appropriate, at what point in time does that increase become effective? Is the increase effective as of the date the circumstances arose, which entitles the recipient to receive more support, or does the increase start from the date of the award by the judge, or some other date? If you , as the payor, are seeking a reduction in the payment of child support, what date does that reduction occur?

The answer to that question was clearly provided for in the case of Webber v. Webber, 56 So3d 822 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011). The court in the Webber case made it clear that any modification of child support cannot be imposed on an individual prior to the date that a petition for modification is filed.

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The payment of child support can put even more stress on an already difficult situation for many people today. The economy has taken an obvious downturn for many, many people. In spite of the economic crisis, children depend on the support for their wellbeing.

Trying to keep current on support obligations is no easy task, but the ramifications of not keeping up can be significant. Delinquencies can subject one to the loss of a driver’s license, professional license, or even the loss of their freedom, if the non payment is intentional and willful.

South Florida, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale are all areas in South Florida that feel the impact of the economy on the payment of child support. The Department of Revenue, the agency responsible for the collection of support, witnesses first hand the difficulties experienced by many in collecting child support in a difficult economy. A recent story appeared in the Sebring, Florida area that dealt with this very issue. You can read the story from the Tampa Tribune, and specifically their on line site.

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Maybe yes, or maybe no. The fact that such a large indebtedness exists, in and of itself, is not the determining factor that may lead to incarceration. The court must first determine how much of that debt can be presently paid by the obligor. This amount becomes the “key” to the jailhouse cell for the obligor.

This principal for asserting civil contempt in family law cases was established by the Florida Supreme Court, in the case of Bowen v. Bowen, 471 So.2d 1274, 1278-79 (1985). The Bowen case requires a two step analysis. First, the court must determine if the obligor, who is behind in his payments, has willfully violated the court order for support; and second; the court must determine an appropriate remedy which is to be imposed in order to compel the defaulting individual to comply with the court’s orders.

If the court wishes to incarcerate an individual for willfully failing to pay support, an affirmative finding must first be made to determine what the present ability is to meet a purge condition. A purge is generally a dollar amount that the defaulting party has the “present and current ability” to pay. Once that amount has been determined, the obligor or defaulting party can either pay or go to jail; his or her release will be subject to the payment of the purge established by the court.