Certain types of Florida child support orders called Title IV-D child support ordersare enforced by the Florida Department of Revenue. A child support order issued in Florida (or any other state) is a legally-enforceable court order requiring one parent to make a periodic payment of support to the other parent for purposes of supporting the child or children. The frequency with which these payments are made depends on the pay schedule of the obligor-parent. When the obligor parent fails or refuses to pay the child support order as required, the Florida Department of Revenue may take any number of steps to enforce the order, including:
- Mailing late payment notices to the obligor’s address, informing him or her that child support payments are not being made on time;
- Sending withholding notices to the obligor’s employers and others who owe money to the obligor, directing these individuals and entities to withhold child support payments from the obligor’s paychecks or wages and sending the payment directly to the Department of Revenue;
- Suspending the obligor’s driver’s license, if the obligor does not begin making payments as ordered or does not contact the Department of Revenue within 20 days of receiving notice;
- Suspending the obligor’s business, professional, hunting and/or fishing licenses if the obligor does not pay what he or she owes, does not make an agreement to pay the past due amount, or does not request a hearing within 30 days of receiving notice;
- Meeting face-to-face with the obligor at a local child support office to negotiate an agreement regarding past-due support or to discuss other ways to address the past-due amount;
- Intercepting federal income taxes or Florida lottery winnings. In the case of lottery winnings, the winnings must be for $600 or more before Florida is able to intercept the winnings;
- Deducting past-due amounts from reemployment benefits or workers’ compensation benefits;
- Placing a lien on a motor vehicle or boat owned by the obligor;
- Reporting the obligation on the obligor’s credit report;
- Garnishing bank accounts or accounts with other financial institutions of the obligor;
- Denying a renewal of the obligor’s passport; or
- Filing a legal action in court to enforce the order, which may result in the obligor being incarcerated until the past-due amount is paid.
What if My Child Support Order is From Outside Florida?
One of Title IV-D’s purposes was to help parents who were owed child support secure that child support. To that end, under Title IV-D, states are to support and cooperate with one another in securing support. Thus, even if a child support order comes from another state’s courts, the Florida Department of Revenue can enforce the order as if the order came from a Florida court.
In order to enforce the out-of-state child support order, the Department of Revenue will typically need to have a copy of the order or enough information to locate the order from the issuing court. Although you do not need to necessarily know the obligor’s whereabouts – Title IV-D requires the states to cooperate in locating absent parents – being able to provide a residential address where the obligor may be found can assist in securing support quickly.
What if I Am Living in Florida and the Parent Paying Support is Out of State?
Again, because states are required to cooperate in securing child support under Title IV-D, the Department of Revenue can assist those Florida parents who are not receiving child support from an out-of-state obligor. If the residence or whereabouts of the obligor is known, this will assist the Department of Revenue as well as the enforcement agency in the other state in establishing and securing payment.
Registration of Child Support Orders
Part of the process of enforcing child support orders that originated from another state, or those that originated in Florida but where the obligor is out of state, involves registering the child support order in the state in which enforcement is sought. Suppose Alex and Alicia are Florida residents and divorced. As part of the divorce decree, Alex is ordered to pay Alicia $400 per month in child support. So long as both Alex and Alicia continue to reside in Florida, there is no special registration requirement necessary – the Florida Department of Revenue will enforce the order of the Florida court.
Suppose that, after a few years, Alex gets a new job in Georgia and moves out of state. Because Alicia still lives in Florida, there is no special requirement for Alicia to register the child support order in Georgia. Florida will retain the ability to enforce the child support order. But suppose that it is Alicia who leaves for the new job, while Alex remains in Florida. Even here, Alicia may wish to leave the order registered in Florida since that is where Alex is located. Nothing would prevent her, however, from registering her child support order in Georgia if she chose to do so.
What should Alicia do if Alex moves to Georgia and she decides to move to Ohio? In this case, it may be easiest to register the order in the state in which Alex lives, since that state is likely to have an easier time collecting and enforcing the child support order.
Contesting Registration of a Support Order
A support order cannot simply be registered in a new state without providing notice to the obligor. There are a number of defenses that obligors can raise when the obligee parent attempts to register a child support order in a new state. Suppose Alex has moved to Georgia and Alicia has decided to register her child support order from Florida in Georgia. Alex can raise a number of defenses to prevent this, including:
- The Florida courts did not have personal jurisdiction over him. In other words, the Florida court that issued the child support order against Alex did not have the legal authority to make an order that obliged him personally.
- The order was obtained by fraud. If Alicia misrepresented anything about her situation, Alex’s situation, or her children’s situations, and this misrepresentation resulted in a child support order, Alex may be able to fight the registration of the order in Georgia.
- The order has been vacated, suspended, or modified by a later order. If the order that Alicia is trying to register is not the correct order, Alex has a defense. For instance, suppose that, while both of them were living in Florida, the child support order stated Alex was obligated to pay $500 per month. Suppose just before Alex left for Georgia that the order was modified to $400 per month. If Alicia attempted to register the $500 order in Georgia, Alex would have good grounds on which to fight the registration.
- The issuing court has stayed the order pending appeal. Sometimes the obligor feels the court has made a mistake in awarding child support and wishes to appeal that decision. The court can stay enforcement of the order pending the appeal, which means that the order will not go into effect and will not be enforceable until the appeal is completed. If Alex appealed the Florida order, the case is still waiting to be decided by the appellate court, and the Florida judge stayed enforcement of the order pending the appeal, then Alicia may not register the order in Georgia for enforcement.
- Georgia law may provide some defenses or legal recourse for Alex.
- Payment has already been made. If Alex has already complied with the child support order, Alicia cannot register the order in Georgia and ask Georgia to enforce it.
Modifying an Out of State Child Support Order
This can be the most confusing issue of all. Some child support orders result in a “chain” of multiple jurisdictions attempting to enforce, collect, or verify existing orders. It can be a complex puzzle to figure out where to file a modification petition. The rule of thumb is to go back to the original jurisdiction to file for modification. Chances are that state and that court will have the authority to modify their original order. Also, chances are that an enforcing state only has authority to enforce and collect – not modify the support order.
Conclusion on Florida Child Support Enforcement
By requiring states to create cooperate and work together, Title IV-D made it much easier for parents who are due child support to locate the obligor parent and secure payment of child support. In Florida, the agency designated to enforce child support orders and assist in locating absentee obligors is the Florida Department of Revenue. Where a Florida court enters an order for child support, the Department of Revenue has a number of tools and tactics to persuade obligors to honor their obligations. When an out-of-state Title IV-D child support order is properly registered in Florida, the Department of Revenue can use these same tactics to enforce the out-of-state order.
When one or both parties move from Florida, however, it may become necessary to register the Florida child support order in another state. This enables the other state to enforce the Florida child support order.
Although the passage of Title IV-D was intended to make enforcement of child support orders easier, there are still some situations that may require obligors or obligees to obtain the services of an experienced family law attorney. Especially in cases where, as an obligor, you feel a child support order should not be registered or enforced (or, as an obligee, you are having difficulty getting a lawful child support order enforced), the assistance of experienced Ayo and Iken attorneys can prove invaluable.