May 31, 2017, MIAMI – While you can go to jail for not paying child support, being prepared for a contempt of court hearing (regarding child support) can result in you avoiding jail-time.
Because it is court ordered, failing to pay child support is considered being in contempt of court. So, if you owe unpaid child support, the other parent can ask for a hearing before a judge to find you in contempt of court. It is very important that you are prepared for the hearing as taking the right steps can very well keep you out of jail in the present and lower your child support in the future.
The first thing you want to do is make sure you attend the court hearing. At the hearing you will need to prepare a convincing case for the judge that outlines, in detail, why you have not paid child support. It is very important that your case is properly documented and thorough. For example, if you did not pay because you were out of work, you will need a statement from your most recent employer explaining why you were let go, and proof that you have went to interviews or applied for a job in the interim.
It is important to remember that a dispute with the other parent about custody, visitation or anything of that nature will not be accepted as a valid excuse for not paying child support. Additionally, you are going to need to explain why you never requested a modification hearing. In the past, I have had clients who could not make child support and didn’t request a modification hearing because they have gotten seriously ill; in an instance such as this, we would document the diagnosis as well as all treatment received by medical professionals and other caretakers.
Another example of why some people don’t request a modification hearing is because they visit attorneys and cannot afford the fees. In this instance, you would need to document the quote that you received. You want your case to be compelling, so emphasizing the details and presenting documented evidence is crucial. The Florida Department of Revenue has some great FAQs regarding Child Support Payments.
While a judge can make the order for you to go to jail for not paying child support, the usual course of action when a case involves children is that the judge will side with what is best for the child. By he or she throwing you in jail, you are not going to be able to generate income to support the child (being that child support is what the original issue was, you can see why this course of action would be problematic). A common alternative is to set up a payment plan to pay unpaid child support, and possibly lower future payments. Any such decision is done at the judge’s discretion. So while you could have freedom to oblige to your responsibilities, if a judge doesn’t trust that you’ll pay, he or she may order your wages to be withheld, or place a lien on your property and assets.