New Proposed Law Seeks to Protect Parents Behind on Child Support

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Struggling to raise a child as a single parent is an all-too-common story. The financial, emotional and logistical challenge of shouldering all the responsibilities of parenting is a large load to bear. Child support from the other parent is often the difference between having enough money to provide for a child and not. Parents have a continuing obligation to financially support a child until he/she becomes a legal adult, and most do what is necessary to meet this obligation. For those that do not, Florida law permits courts to impose penalties and institute mechanisms to compel payment. These provisions exist to guard against the severe financial repercussions parents with primary child-caretaking responsibilities often experience when payments are not forthcoming. A new bill was introduced in the Florida House recently that would protect some parents delinquent in child support payments from being held in contempt of court, and specifically exclude them from a driver’s license suspension if certain criteria are met. An overview of the proposed law, as well as some of the current options available to force payment of overdue child support will follow below.

Florida Responsible Parent Act

A common recourse used by the courts to induce the payment of overdue child support is to order the suspension of the parent’s driver’s license and vehicle registration. Opponents of this practice argue that taking away a person’s driving privileges only makes paying the child support more difficult due to the impact the suspension would have on getting to work. The proposed bill attempts to resolve this conflict by exempting parents behind on child support from the license suspension penalty, and the accompanying contempt of court order, if the non-payment is due to specified factors. These include:

  • an act of God;
  • a medical emergency of the delinquent parent; or
  • unexpected involuntary unemployment.

In place of the contempt order, which can lead to jail time, the delinquent parent would be ordered to enter a work-release program or supervised home confinement without electronic monitoring. These options would give the parent the ability to continue working or looking for employment, which would make it easier for the parent to become current on his/her child support obligation.

Methods to Enforce Child Support

The initial measure used in all cases where a parent is ordered to pay child support is an income deduction order. Courts issue these orders directing the obligated parent’s employer to automatically withdraw the stipulated amount, and transfer it to the state collection unit for distribution. In addition, courts may suspend professional licenses if petitioned to do so by the other parent. Also, as noted above, parents who are able to pay, but refuse, could be held in contempt of court, and face jail time until the delinquency is cleared. Further, the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Florida Department of Revenue will also take steps to enforce a child support order, including:

  • the seizure of income tax refunds, lottery winnings, unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation benefits;
  • placing liens against property;
  • placing a negative report with credit agencies; and
  • garnishing the parent’s wages.

Speak with a Family Law Attorney

Child support is a crucial part of providing for a child, and if you are not receiving this money on time or at all, speak to a family law attorney about your options. Being proactive when the problems first start makes it more likely you will get the money owed to you sooner. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. will do what is necessary to get your case resolved. Contact for a free consultation.

Resources:

leg.state.fl.us/STATUTES/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0000-0099/0061/Sections/0061.1301.html

flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/0313/BillText/Filed/PDF

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