Articles Posted in Child Support Arrears

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Although 401K accounts and IRA retirement accounts are generally protected from creditors, they may not have the same protection against an ex- spouse regarding the payment of alimony or child support arrears.  Stated another way, if you are owed either alimony or child support, do you have a right to collect the monies owed from your ex-spouse’s retirement accounts?

Statutes that were designed to protect the family assets from creditor claims, so that the family would not become dependent upon the state for support, do not afford an individual the same protection against their ex-spouse for the payment of child support or alimony arrears.

In order for a spouse to reach funds held in a retirement account, whether it be an IRA or a 401(k), there must first be an existing support order.  Next, there must be a finding by the court that there are in fact arrears owed pursuant to that court order which have accrued as a result of nonpayment by the obligor.  If the court makes an affirmative finding that the obligor has willfully refused to pay support obligations, he or she may be found in contempt of court.

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Do you have a divorce case, a paternity case, or a supplemental petition for modification of alimony or child support pending before the court?   If you have answered yes to this question, you need to be sure that you have “clean hands” when you proceed to court with your case.

What in the world does this mean “clean hands”?   “Clean hands” simply means that you must act in good faith when you appear in court.  You cannot expect to be rewarded for bad behavior when you appear in court.  You must act in good faith, “have your house in order”, and be candid and honest with the Court.  This is what “clean hands” means.

The clean hands doctrine frequently arises in supplemental petitions for modification of alimony or child support.  A party may be seeking to reduce the previously ordered obligation for support, based upon a change in their financial circumstances.  Often times these individuals will have a large, accrued balance, of either child support or alimony arrears.  If you fall into this category and proceed to court seeking relief,  you better have a good explanation as to why you have not been paying the previously ordered amounts for either alimony or child support.

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The rate at which alimony and/or child support arrears are repaid is largely dependent on whether or not an income withholding order has been previously entered in the case.

If an income deduction order or income withholding order has been entered, Florida Statute 61.1301(1)(b)(2) mandates that any arrears must be repaid at least at the rate of 20% of the regular monthly support obligation. This is a nonnegotiable amount that cannot be repaid at less than the 20% rate based upon the statutory mandate.

The situation is a little bit different when there is no previously existing income withholding order.  The court has more discretion to dictate the terms at which arrears will be repaid to the recipient.  Case law has made it clear that in situations where income deduction or income withholding orders are not at issue or in play in the case, the trial court would have discretion to provide a different rate of payment on existing 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 Ebony.com. 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.