Jail Time for Unpaid Child Support

If you do not pay your child support, you could end up behind bars. 

When a Florida court issues an order for child support, a noncustodial parent's adherence to the order is not voluntary. When parents choose to avoid paying child support, they do so at a great degree of personal risk.

Florida law provides enforcement mechanisms that penalize parents who fail to pay their child support, which can range anywhere from fines to jail time. Since jail time is one of the most severe consequences of failing to pay child support, noncustodial Florida parents would be well-advised to gain familiarity with Florida's child support enforcement mechanisms.

Sanctions for Unpaid Florida Child Support

When you owe back child support, Florida treats this failure to obey a court-issued child support order seriously. The legal term for disobeying court orders is referred to as "contempt of court". When child support goes unpaid, the custodial parent or Florida's Child Support Enforcement Program may request a hearing before a Florida family court judge, asking that the noncustodial parent be held in contempt of court.

You will then be served with notice via a document informing you that attendance to this hearing is mandatory. Subsequently, you will then be required to attend and explain why child support has not been paid. If you simply do not attend, that is when the court is legally authorized to issue a warrant for your arrest.

Not only can Florida courts issue arrest warrants, they do so with some degree of regularity, evidenced by the parents who spend time in county jail. Know that when an arrest warrant is issued, your name and warrant is placed on the state's crime computer. Practically, this means you can be arrested at a traffic stop, at home or even at work.

Avoiding jail time requires attending the hearing and showing a judge that you have not deliberately chosen to avoid child support payments. This requires evidence, and a family lawyer can assist you in this process. You will need to show valid reasons for not paying and also explain why you never sought to modify the child support order once you realized you could not pay.

Courts tend to only use jail time as a last resort since they are aware of the reality that a jailed parent will not be able to help their child by making future payments. Still, it is never a good idea to tempt fate by deliberately disobeying a court order.

Additional Consequences for Failing to Pay Child Support 

While jail time is among the most severe outcomes of not paying child support, there are other negative consequences as well that are more likely to occur. These additional negative consequences include:

  • Suspension of a Driver's License or Vehicle Registration

  • Fines

  • Seizure of Bank Accounts and/or Income Tax Refunds

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If you have questions regarding child support, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at contact@themckinneylawgroup.com

Damien McKinney

The McKinney Law Group, 1105 West Swann Avenue, Tampa, FL, 33606, United States

Damien has practiced in of all aspects of marital and family law for his entire career and offers a rare commodity, a lawyer dedicated solely to his area of practice.