If you have a court order granting you child support or alimony and the payor has not paid, you can seek to enforce the support agreement. The most common remedy in situations where a parent or ex-spouse refuses to pay alimony and child support is seeking enforcement by filing a Motion for Contempt.
Contempt is a legal term, and it means a refusal to obey a judge’s order, mandate or decree.
- First of all, there must be an order in place obligating a party to pay child support or alimony.
- Second, the payor must have a copy of the order and be aware of his or her obligation to pay.
- Third, the payor must have ability to comply with order. In other words, in order for the court to find the party in contempt, their disregard for the court order must be deliberate and willful.
When considering the ability of a person to comply with an order you must consider whether that person has income and / or assets with which to pay the amount they have been ordered to pay. If the person has the ability to work and refuses to work, the court may impute income to that person and find that he or she has the ability to pay despite the unemployment.
What if your prior court order is from another state? Then you must simply seek to domesticate, i.e., making the legal instrument recognized by another jurisdiction, the order in Florida and then seek enforcement.
The judge has a wide selection of things they can do to enforce the order. For example, along with ordering the payor to pay the outstanding support, the judge may order the payment of attorney’s fees and costs and / or suspension of driver’s license. The harshest remedy is jail time. The judge will hear all evidence regarding the noncompliance with the court order. If after weighing alter evidence the court determines that the payor has willfully disobeyed the court’s order while having the ability to comply, the judge will then order the party to pay the amount owed by a date certain. If the payor fails to meet the deadline imposed, then the judge can send the payor to jail for a period of time up to 5 months and 29 days or until they pay the purge amount, whichever occurs first.
It is never a good thing to be in contempt of a court order. If a Motion for Contempt has been filed against you, seek legal advice immediately as your failure to respond and / or assert any defenses at a hearing may result in an unfavorable finding against you.
If you are struggling during these COVID-19 times because your ex-spouse or other parent has unilaterally stopped paying your support without any justification, contact a lawyer immediately. Our court system is still moving matters forward and enforcing prior court orders. Our lawyers are still working hard advocating on behalf of their clients and families. If you find yourself at either side of a motion for contempt, contact us. We can help no matter which side you are on a contempt motion.