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The consequences of failing to pay child support in Florida

Many people in central Florida who obtain a divorce frequently try to escape their obligations to pay child support. The consequences of failing to obey either a court order or a marital dissolution agreement that requires the payment of child support can be serious and should never be taken lightly.

Occasionally, failure to pay child support is the result of an unexpected change in the payor's economic situation, such as losing a job or suffering a disabling injury. In such cases, the obligor spouse can seek relief from the court by bringing a motion to modify the terms of child support. Such a motion must be supported by convincing evidence that such a change is warranted, but making the motion is a much better choice than ignoring the obligation altogether.

Ex-spouses who inexcusably default on their child support obligations usually misunderstand the nature of their legal obligation. Whether the child support is ordered by the court or is a term in a marital dissolution agreement, it has the legal force of a court order. Therefore, failure to make the required payments will be treated as contempt of court. Contempt of court is usually punished by a fine and, in some cases, incarceration. If the court finds that failure to pay support was willful, it can suspend the person's driver's license, order a fine, seize bank accounts or income tax refunds and, as mentioned, order jail or prison time.

Anyone who is facing a motion to compel the payment of child support or to impose penalties for the failure to do so may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney for advice. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide an evaluation of the situation, explain likely penalties and make any necessary court appearances.

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