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Civil Contempt and Due Process in Florida Child Support Disputes


If a court has ever ordered you to pay child support, you know that the law takes a parent’s responsibility to support his or her children financially while they are minors very seriously.  For example, past due child support payments were virtually the only reason that the federal government permitted garnishment of anyone’s coronavirus stimulus check.  Almost everyone with an income low enough to qualify to receive a stimulus check owed some sort of debt, but only child support debt was important enough to warrant garnishment of the emergency payment.  Failure to pay your court-ordered child support obligations can lead to a variety of civil and criminal penalties, everything from garnishment of paychecks and contempt of court to jail time.  Even if you have accumulated years’ worth of overdue child support, you still have legal rights as a human being and as a parent.  Unpaid child support does not give the court the right to keep you from exercising your parenting time or to impose penalties without giving you a chance to tell your side.  A South Florida child support lawyer will help you exercise your rights in a dispute over child support.

Due Process in Child Support Cases

It is possible for one spouse to request that the court hold the other in contempt for non-payment of child support; contempt of court is when the court declares that you disobeyed a court order.  If your ex-spouse files a motion to hold you in contempt, there must be a hearing at which your ex argues why the court should hold you in contempt and you argue why it should not.  If you do not attend the hearing, the court will automatically hold you in contempt, as it will only have heard your ex-spouse’s side, just as if one spouse files a divorce petition and the other does not respond to it, the court automatically grants the divorce on the terms requested by the filing spouse.  If your ex is trying to hold you in contempt, he or she must formally serve you with a notice about the hearing.  The notice must tell you the time and location of the hearing, and it should explicitly state what the consequences of failing to appear at the hearing will be.

One Miami-Dade County couple, Richard and Desiree Hart, experienced this situation.  In 2019, Desiree filed a motion to have the court hold her ex-husband Richard in contempt for failure to pay child support in the amount specified in the court order.  Richard did not appear at the contempt hearing, so the court issued an order of contempt.  Richard appealed the order of contempt, because he had never received a notice specifying the time and location of the hearing and the consequences of not attending.  The court then vacated the order of contempt.

Let Us Help You Today

You have a right to challenge unfair child support obligations and to defend yourself against accusations of willful non-payment.  Contact the Boca Raton child support lawyers at Schwartz | White for a consultation on your case.


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