What Happens if You Don’t Pay Child Support in Florida?

The penalties for missing child support payments in Florida can result in the suspension of your driver’s license, seizure of assets, and even jail time. If your circumstances have changed, the court can modify your child support order if it’s in the child’s best interest. Whether you’ve missed payments or haven’t received them, schedule a free consultation with the O’Mara Law Group for help.

Child support laws in Florida and other states are designed to protect the financial well-being of children whose parents have gone through divorce or separation. These laws often involve a court order requiring a noncustodial parent to provide support for the child. It is important to note that child support may be extended for children beyond the age of 18. Many parents choose to do so to help their children pay for college or certain health expenses. Unfortunately, some parents do not fulfill their legal obligations.

When you don’t pay child support, the custodial parent can file a civil case against you. At the O’Mara Law Group, we understand the challenges you face, whether you’ve missed payments or need to enforce them. Our experienced child support lawyers can help you navigate the legal system and provide needed help.

Penalties for Missing Child Support Payments in Florida

In Florida, failure to pay the stipulated child support is a serious violation of a court order, which amounts to contempt of court. As a result, you risk being prosecuted by the Florida Family Court. If you persistently refuse to pay child support, you might face jail time or be subjected to various mechanisms to compel payment. The severity of these consequences depends on various factors, including the amount of missed payments and notices of delinquency.

Penalties for missing child support payments in Florida include:

  • Withholding of income
  • Seizure of assets
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Cancellation of passport
  • Jail terms

How Much Back Child Support Is a Felony in Florida?

The consequences for failing to make child support payments in Florida grow more severe depending on the duration of non-payment and the outstanding amount owed.

First, a notice of delinquency is served after 15 days as an official warning of overdue payment. Penalties then take effect after 20 days of non-payment. For example, a lien may be placed against your property, including your vehicle, to secure owed funds.

Depending on the duration of nonpayment, you can face additional financial penalties, including the seizure of your bank account or income tax refund to offset the debt.

Can you go to jail for not paying child support? Yes, when child support remains unpaid for an extended period, it can escalate to a felony offense. Florida has criteria for classifying child support delinquency as a felony:

  • Your payment is four months past due, and you owe $2,500 or more.
  • You have a prior conviction for non-payment.
  • You have been accused of trying to leave the state to evade payment.

What Happens at a Contempt Hearing for Child Support?

During a contempt hearing for child support in Florida, the court assesses the situation and considers options to address non-compliance with child support orders. Here’s an overview of what can happen:

  • Incarceration or compliance periods: If the non-custodial parent is found to be in contempt, the court may order incarceration. Alternatively, the court can grant the respondent about 30 days to provide overdue payments and comply with the court order.
  • Writ and purge order: When required payments are not made within a specified period, the court may issue a writ and purge order that outlines the actions the respondent must take to rectify the situation.
  • Direct payment option: The court will assess the respondent’s financial situation. If the non-custodial parent has the means to make immediate payment, the court may allow them to make a direct payment to meet their obligation.

Requesting Child Support Modification

It is entirely reasonable to request a child support modification in some situations. Life circumstances change, and the law acknowledges that several factors can affect a parent’s ability to make child support payments. These include:

Military Service

Military members may face unique challenges regarding child support due to deployments and duty station changes. It may be necessary to request a modification to accommodate these changes.


Remarriage can impact child support obligations, particularly if the new spouse has financial responsibilities or if there are additional children in the new family. The situation may warrant modification to match additional family needs.


Either parent may request modification when there is a significant relocation. A change of address can affect the cost of living, transportation expenses, and other related factors that may warrant an adjustment in child support.

Job Changes

If the paying parent loses their job or experiences a significant reduction or increase in income, the parties may seek a modification to reflect the new financial situation.

What Is the Process for Requesting Modification?

If you need to petition the court to review a child support order, here are steps to help you effectively navigate the process:

  • Gather necessary information: Collect all relevant information, including documentation of the changed circumstances that justify the modification.
  • Consult with an attorney: It is highly advisable to hire a child custody lawyer. An attorney can provide valuable guidance, help you prepare your case, and ensure you follow necessary legal procedures.
  • Complete the required forms: In Florida, you must typically fill out the Supplemental Petition for Modification of Child Support form.
  • Serve the other parent: You must serve the completed forms to the other parent or their legal representative. This ensures that the other party is aware of the modification request.
  • Attend the hearing: Both parties will present their case and provide evidence supporting their position. The court will consider the changed circumstances and rule in the child’s best interests.

The duration of the child support modification process can vary for several reasons, including court availability and case complexity. Typically, the process can take several months between the initial petition and the court’s decision.

When to Get Help From a Lawyer

If the non-custodial parent consistently fails to make child support payments despite court orders, it’s crucial to seek legal assistance. A child support lawyer can help you navigate the legal system to enforce payment and recover overdue amounts.

Further, if you believe a child support order needs to be altered, a lawyer can guide you through the modification process to adjust the support amount accordingly.

In some cases, non-payment may arise from legal issues or misunderstandings. A lawyer can assess your situation and, if appropriate, present valid defenses to explain or mitigate non-payment.

A Florida divorce lawyer will represent your interests during negotiations with the other party or their attorney. The attorney may effectuate favorable resolutions without the need for litigation. If your child support case goes to court, an attorney can advocate for your interests by presenting evidence, arguing your case, and ensuring your rights are protected.

Trust the Experienced Team at O’Mara Law Group

Navigating child support issues in Florida can be complex, and you may have questions if you miss payments or don’t receive them. The O’Mara Law Group is dedicated to helping parents through difficult child support situations.

With more than three decades of experience helping clients navigate difficult legal challenges, our attorneys are ready to protect your interests. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your child support situation and explore legal options.


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