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Must An Incarcerated Parent Continue To Pay Child Support In Florida?


Mitchell and Sandra seemed to have it all. A great house, a boat slip, money to travel, and three great kids. Sandra was lucky to stay at home with the children while Mitchell pulled long nights at work as a financial advisor. That was until last year, when Mitchell was arrested for securities fraud. He was recently sentenced to 2 years in prison, and during that time Sandra filed for absolute divorce, seeking custody for her three minor children. The judge made the child support award before Mitchell was sentenced to incarceration. Now he does not understand how he can make child support obligations while incarcerated. Are incarcerated parents expected to make child support payments in Florida?

Avoid Arrears

Simply being arrested and sentenced does not retroactively cancel a parent’s child support obligations. Parents are expected to continue making payments (through wire transfer or another electronic form) on a monthly or lump sum basis to the other co-parent for their children. The rationale is that children should not be punished for the sins of the parent. Unfortunately, often when parents are arrested they do fall behind in their payments, and the other parent struggles to enforce past payments. However, if a parent does fall into arrears(back-owed child support), it does have consequences when they are released from jail or prison. If they are able to obtain a job, their wages can be garnished. Any state benefits they might qualify for can be garnished, their license can be suspended or revoked, and they may face issues trying to find temporary housing.

Filing for a Child Support Modification

If the parent facing imprisonment cannot rely on savings to pay child support obligations, and no longer has a source of income because of their incarceration, they need to file a request for  child support modification with the court that made the award. Loss of income qualifies as a substantial event that should trigger modification. Fla. Stat. § 61.30(1)(b) (2021). The court has discretion to lower payments or suspend payments until the incarcerated parent’s release. However, bear in mind that child support is to be paid for the benefit of the child, and both parents have a duty to provide for their children, especially when one parent is physically separated. For the other parent, it can seem unduly unfair that they are now the primary caregiver and cannot rely on child support payments simply because their co-parent was arrested.

Call Our Family Law Attorneys at Bubley & Bubley

Make no mistake about it, there are repercussions for failure to pay child support. Only a family law court can suspend or shorten payments for a co-parent. If your co-parent was arrested and is now refusing to make payments, you can file a motion for contempt. Our Tampa family attorneys at Bubley & Bubley, P.A. are dedicated to achieving results for our clients in tumultuous times and have offices conveniently located in Tampa. Call us today to schedule a consultation.



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