Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Support

When a parent fails to pay child support in Florida, he or she can be held in contempt of court. The consequences of this may include incarceration, fines and suspension of a driver’s license, among other punishments. Before a parent is held in contempt, Florida law contains certain safeguards that promote a fair process. This is evident in the case Seaman v. Seaman, 5D18-2020 (Fla. 5th DCA March 22, 2019).

This appellate case does not recite a factual background, but the father appealed a trial court order holding him in contempt for failure to pay child support. Florida Rule of Family Law Procedure 12.615 guides contempt proceedings. According to that rule, if a party does not appear at a contempt hearing, the court shall, “set a reasonable purge amount based on the individual circumstances of the parties. The court may issue a writ of bodily attachment and direct that, upon execution of the writ of bodily attachment, the alleged contemnor be brought before the court within 48 hours for a hearing on whether the alleged contemnor has the present ability to pay support and, if so, whether the failure to pay such support is willful.”

In this case, the father did not appear for the contempt hearing. Despite his failure to appear, the trial court found he had the present ability to pay support and that his failure to pay was willful. Without receiving evidence on these issues, the appellate court found it was error for the trial court to make these findings. Additionally, because the clear directive of the Family Law Rules of Procedure make it clear regarding what the court is to do when an accused party does not appear at the hearing, the trial court made an error.

If you are facing contempt in your Florida child support case or you need to hold the other parent accountable for non-payment of support, contact a Miami child support lawyer. A consultation may help you get started on the right path.