Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Support

Once a Florida child support order is entered, the party responsible for paying child support must keep up with his/her payment obligation to avoid a motion for contempt. Motions for contempt can result in sanctions such as suspension of a driver's license and even incarceration. Specific findings must be made, however, in order for a court to hold a party in contempt for non-payment of child support as we see in the case Crawford v. Crawford, 219 So.3d 224 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017). 

The child support obligor, the father in this case, testified that he had applied to numerous jobs and was currently working a temporary position to pay his $500 per month child support obligation. The record showed the father had previously been held in contempt and ordered to pay purge amounts, and that he did not consistently pay child support since the order of support was entered. 

At the hearing on the father's contempt, the hearing officer found the father had the ability to pay child support based on the father's payment history and the father's ability to earn income. The father was then sentenced to jail with a purge payment of $500 which the hearing officer again found he had the ability to pay based on the aforementioned factors. The father objected, stating this was not the correct legal standard and that the hearing officer did not have the authority to order incarceration. The father was arrested but later paid the purge amount. 

On appeal, the hearing officer's rulings were reversed because (1) there was no competent, substantial evidence that the father had the ability to pay child support or even the purge amount, especially where his unrebutted testimony showed he only had $15 in assets and was without permanent employment and (2) the hearing officer had no authority under the law to order incarceration - only a circuit court judge can do so. 

Had the father not had a Florida child support attorney representing him, he may have faced continued repercussions from the ruling made by the trial court. Preserving your right to appeal your case starts with a consultation with a Miami family law attorney. Schedule your meeting today to go over your best options.