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What Happens If a Parent Does Not Pay Child Support?

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 21, 2022

Child support orders can come out of a dramatic, awkward, and emotional situations. In extreme cases, noncustodial parents (the parent not living with the child) cannot or will not make the child support payments a judge has ordered.

This can be extremely frustrating, not to mention putting undue financial burdens on your family. There are ways, however, to get compensated for lost child support payments, and penalties to those who refuse to pay child support. Below we have provided answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding changes in child support.

My Child’s Other Parent is Not Paying Child Support. How Do I Take Action?

Before taking any legal action, you need to contact the closest social worker or child support office. They may be able to help you without setting foot inside a court room.

If the office, which typically works with the Department of Revenue, cannot succeed in obtaining the payment(s), they can file a “Motion for Contempt.” The case is heard first by a hearing officer. This officer is not a judge, but will help the judge in his or her final ruling.

What Are the Penalties for Not Paying Child Support?

If the hearing officer finds that a parent is willingly not paying his or her child support, they will send a recommendation to a judge for an official signature. When a judge signs the document, the parent will be found guilty of contempt of court. The parent could then face the following penalties:

  • Suspension of driving/hunting/fishing license, or vehicle registration

  • Heavy fines

  • Withholding of professional licenses

  • Felony or misdemeanor charges

  • Interception of bank accounts

  • Interception of income tax refund or unemployment compensation

  • Interception of Florida lottery winnings

  • Prison sentence

Will The Noncustodial Parent Be Arrested?

Maybe. A court may find it appropriate to issue an arrest warrant, which will allow officers to arrest the parent at home, work, or at a traffic stop.

Can The Noncustodial Parent Fight These Charges?

Yes. There is a brief window of time between the hearing officer drafting a recommendation and the judge signing the recommendation. In that time, each party in question can challenge the recommendation and defend themselves in court.

What Happens If the Noncustodial Parent Leaves the State?

Even if the child support laws are different in another state, the same obligations and penalties apply to the noncustodial parent. The Uniform Family Support Act is a federal law that states that if one parent moves out of state but the other stays in the state, no other state can change the original state’s child support order.

For example, you and your child live in Florida, where you and your ex-husband got divorced. Florida issued a child support order, requiring your ex-husband to pay X amount of dollars each month. In an attempt to dodge the order, your ex moved to Colorado. Legally, Colorado cannot change the child support order if you still live in the state of Florida.

Both parents agree they want to change a child support order. Can they?

Yes! Sometimes employment, remarriage, or shifts in financial situations require parents to adjust their original child support order. As long as the parents promptly alert a child support office or Florida agency that they would like to change the order, a more appropriate arrangement can be made.

Custodial and noncustodial parents share the responsibility of communicating and cooperating with child support enforcement programs so the appropriate amount of child support can be distributed and used to care for your child. Sometimes, however, doing so in a court room can get messy. If you need legal advice or representation in court, contact a Florida family lawyer today.