Child support provides necessary assistance to children for clothing, food, and other important things that cost money. However, it can be a financial burden for certain people. In some cases, they may end up missing child support payments. This happens to some people because they get laid off. Some people decide to stop paying their child support because they do not agree with the amount or out of spite. There are consequences to missed child support payments, and in some cases, they can be severe.
Legal Penalties for Missed Payments
If someone has been ordered to pay child support but fails to make the payments, the custodial parent might file a motion for civil contempt because of it. If this happens, a judge will review the case and decide whether or not the parent supposed to make payments had violated the order for child support. If the court determines they have violated the order, they may become subject to certain penalties. Some examples of the potential penalties for missed child support payments in Florida include:
- Having the payments taken directly out of their paycheck
- Having the contents of their bank accounts seized
- Having any government benefits, such as food stamps, withheld
- Having their driver’s license suspended
- Having the missed payments reported to the credit bureaus, negatively impacting their credit score
- Having their tax refunds withheld or seized
- Having certain assets, such as vehicles, seized
- Being required to reimburse the custodial parent’s legal fees spent fighting for child support payments
- Jail time
Note that missed child support payments can become a felony charge. This happens when someone is past due by 4 months and owes more than $2,500, has already been convicted of failing to pay, and has tried leaving the state to avoid paying child support. A noncustodial parent who refuses to make child support payments in Florida may face a jail sentence of up to 6 months and will not receive a jury trial.
Preventing Missed Payments
A parent who cannot make court-ordered child support payments can look into having their child support order modified. This is one of the simplest ways to pay less money in a bind and prevents the penalties of missed payments. For a non-custodial parent to get their child support order changed, they will need to prove to the court that their financial circumstances have changed suddenly and substantially. It is recommended to request a modification as soon as possible and before missing a payment.
Some examples of substantial life changes the state of Florida may modify an existing child support order for include:
- Being laid off from a job or otherwise losing a job involuntarily
- A reduction in wages that is involuntary
- Being hospitalized or otherwise unable to work due to health issues
- Significant changes in a visitation order that has given more visitation time to the non-custodial parent, meaning they spend more money on the child in person
- A significant change in expenses, such as a raise in rent prices or medical bills
- The custodial parent has started making significantly more income, and the child support payments are no longer necessary
It is important to note that the courts will not modify a child support order if the non-custodial parent cannot prove the change in income was unanticipated and significant. There is also a fee associated with petitioning the court for a child support order modification.
Once a non-custodial parent files a request to have their child support payments changed, the custodial parent can respond within 20 days. This response can include why they believe the payments should stay the same or why they agree that the modification is necessary. A hearing date will be set, and the non-custodial parent will have to prove their financial situation. They should bring evidence with them, such as pay stubs, medical records, and more. The judge will make a decision regarding the modification at the hearing and the revised order will go into effect immediately.
The Importance of Child Support
Some people make the choice to stop paying child support because they believe they are spiting their ex by doing so. However, the person who is truly impacted is the child. Child support money is not meant to be used for the custodial parent’s expenses, but for the care and well-being of the child. Child support payments are most often used to help with expenses such as:
- Housing: Housing can be very expensive. Rent, a mortgage, and utilities can add up quickly. Child support money can be used to assist with paying the costs of maintaining stable housing, which is extremely important for the well-being of a child.
- Food: Although there are government programs that can help low-income parents feed their children, they are not always enough. Child support payments may be used to help feed a child, and well-fed children are shown to perform better in school and long-term.
- Clothes: Child support payments can be used to purchase clothing for the child, such as shoes and jackets.
- Schooling: A parent might have to pay for something school related, even if their child attends public school. Field trips, supplies, and books all cost money, and child support can help with those expenses.
- Healthcare: A child with health insurance may still have co-pays related to their healthcare, which can be covered by child support. Payments can also help with expenses such as glasses, dental care, prescription medication, and more.
- Extracurriculars: Some children choose to participate in extracurricular activities, such as sport teams and camps. Child support payments can be used to cover the expenses related to such activities.
Anyone who is considering skipping out on their child support payments to get back at their ex should consider how it may impact their child, as well as the potential legal consequences.
Don’t Fight Alone
If you have missed child support payments and are facing potential consequences, contact Orshan, Spann & Fernandez-Mesa today. We believe that parents should only be expected to provide what is fair and reasonable, and we understand that missed payments can happen despite trying to avoid them. With decades of combined experience behind us, we can fight tirelessly on your behalf to prevent consequences and get your child support order modified. Contact us at (305) 853-9161 or online today.