Florida public policy states that both parents are responsible for providing financial support to their children, and there are strict laws in place to enforce this policy. In short, yes, you can go to jail for not paying court-ordered child support. The good news is that you'll have several opportunities to correct the problem and make the payments you owe. Failure to comply with a court order is called contempt of court.
If you owe unpaid child support, the other parent can request a hearing before a judge and request that you be held in contempt of court. You must be served with a document ordering you to attend the hearing and then you must attend and explain why you have not paid the support you owe. If you don't attend, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest. Many courts issue court orders, making county jails a resting place for parents who don't pay child support and don't show up for court.
Since jail time is one of the most serious consequences of not paying child support, noncustodial Florida parents should familiarize themselves with Florida's child support enforcement mechanisms. More than three-quarters of child support payments in Florida are made through wage garnishment, also known as the Income Deduction Order (IDO). If you're struggling to make ends meet or pay child support in full, your best bet is to request a change in your support order. We can discuss your best options in the future to ensure that the child support due is correct.
Florida family courts work on the assumption that child support must be equivalent to the amount the couple would have spent on the child if they had decided to stay together. As mentioned, the primary consideration when calculating child support in Florida is the income of both parents along with the number of overnight stays. Whether a child support order has been entered in connection with a divorce case or a paternity claim, it is legally binding. That's according to Florida Statute child support law 39.01, so parents in the state are required to provide support for their children.
After losing a payment, your child's other parent can file a petition in the court where the child support order was entered, NOT in criminal court. If one of the debtor parents (the parent instructed by the court to pay child support) refuses to pay or does not pay child support in Florida, the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) will step in and take action. Under Florida's child support guidelines, you are eligible for a one-year sentence behind bars if you don't pay or until the arrears are paid. You'll need to show valid reasons for not paying and also explain why you never tried to change the child support order once you realized you couldn't pay.
To get child support in Florida, the custodial parent must file a “petition for support” with the clerk's office of the circuit court in their county. This method reduces the likelihood that a parent will not make their child support payment, since the payment is automatically deducted from their paycheck. Depending on who ordered your child support payments, this request may be processed by the Child Support Program or the circuit court.