Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Child Support

Can a parent in prison be ordered to pay Florida child support? This was a topic discussed in the case Wilkerson v. Wilkerson, 220 So.3d 480 (Fla. 5th DCA 2017). When a parent is incarcerated, a dilemma arises wherein a child needs support, but the imprisoned parent is unable to earn a wage to pay that support. 

In Wilkerson, the father was sentenced to a long prison term. The trial court ordered the father to pay child support despite his imprisonment, and the father appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion since it is clear the father will not be able to earn income to pay the child support for a long period of time. 

Considering how other courts have ruled on this issue, the appellate court found no abuse of discretion in the lower court's ruling. Specifically, the appellate court held, "We believe that an individual's actions that lead to incarceration are voluntary for purposes of the statute." The Florida Statutes say income can be imputed to a parent who is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed. 

Therefore, an incarcerated parent may still be on the hook for child support even though he or she is unable to earn income. While the obligation may be abated or paused during the prison sentence, the parent will still owe the support upon release. Other appellate cases conflict with this decision so there may be a final answer from the Florida Supreme Court soon regarding this issue. 

Schedule your consultation with a Miami child support lawyer today to determine how child support will be calculated in your specific case.