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What Is Florida’s “Responsible Parent Act”?

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

When the court orders a parent to pay child support, that parent is bound by a legal agreement to do just that. Failing to meet the agreement may result in contempt of court charges and civil or even criminal penalties.

If you pay child support, or are thinking about divorce and may have to pay child support in the future, it is important to pay attention to Florida’s family law policies. These laws are constantly changing, and can hugely affect your finances and your future.

Let’s look at a recent proposed change to Florida family law: the Responsible Parent Act.

What Does the “Responsible Parent Act” Change?

Kim Daniels filed House Bill 313, also known as the Florida Responsible Parent Act, in January 2017. In general, the bill lifts many of the penalties or consequences for parents who cannot make child support payments.

Under the current law, parents who fail to make child support payments run the risk of having their driver’s license and motor vehicle registrations taken away by the court. House Bill 313 would eliminate the court’s power to suspend licenses and registration for some parents who can’t make child support.

House Bill 313 doesn’t let every parent off the hook, though. If the bill is passed, financially stable parents can’t skip a child support payment without repercussions. HB313 only lifts the penalties for parents who cannot pay child support due to:

  • Involuntary unemployment

  • Medical emergencies

  • An act of God

As an alternative to punishment, the law gives the court the right to require the parent to be placed in a work-release program or supervised home confinement. Additionally, businesses who hire the parents as a part of their work-release program will receive a tax credit.

The Responsible Parent Act Is Not Yet a Law

Remember, House Bill 313 was only introduced in early January, so it could be a while before we see significant movement on the bill becoming an actual law. Parents who are struggling to make child support payments should not rely on the bill while planning their finances.

As of right now, driver’s license and registration suspension is only one consequence of failing to pay child support. Parents who do not pay child support may also be subject to the following penalties:

  • Fines or restitution

  • Seizure of bank accounts

  • Seizure of income tax refunds

  • Jail (you may face up to six months behind bars for not paying child support)

What You Can Do If You Cannot Pay Child Support

Again, parents who are struggling should not rely on the possibly of the Responsible Parent Act. However, if it is tough making ends meet and you can’t afford to keep paying child support, you do have options for avoiding contempt of court charges.

Talk to your co-parent about your budget and ability to pay child support. If both parents can agree on a change to child support payments, the entire process of changing child support orders will go a lot smoother. If your co-parent does not support your need to modify child support payments, you still have the option of trying to change the order on your own.

Petitions are available to modify or terminate child support payments. Florida does have certain requirements for the petition to be approved, though. Read more on what it takes to get a child support payment changed on our past blog post.

For more information on how child support is handled in Florida courts, contact a Florida family lawyer.