It is a law that has been rarely used according to the clerk of a country criminal court. However, a Florida woman armed with contempt of court orders for her ex-husband's failure to pay child support, which a judge had ruled he was capable of paying, pointed prosecutors to the rarely used law that makes the offense a felony in Florida. As a result, the man was arrested and prosecuted for his violation and recently pleaded no contest to the charge.
For his sentence, he was ordered to pay over $69,000 in back child support over the next five years. The man was also placed on probation for five years, ordered to pay another $415 in court costs, and undertake 25 hours of community service monthly. The judge did rule that the man could instead pay off the community service at a rate of $10 per hour. Finally, he must pay $550 every week for his two sons.
The man claimed that he was unable to pay the support, blaming the shrinking economy. The man, who worked as a repossession agent, also pointed to the loss of his business as another reason for his missed payments. He also asserted that his attempts to reduce the payments in the past had been denied.
It is a rare occurrence for a Florida resident to be brought before a criminal court for their failure to pay child support. However, as evidenced in this case, the courts, if compelled to do so, will take action to enforce prior family court orders. To mitigate this drastic possibility, child support issues should be addressed well in advance so that a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached prior to the police arriving to execute an arrest warrant. It remains to be seen if this admittedly rarely used statute will be used more frequently going forward.