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What to Do if You’re Not Receiving Your Child Support or Alimony Payments, part 2

January 28, 2015

Spousal or child support payments can be an essential source of income for families. But sometimes the party ordered to make the payments fails to do so, and the results can be financially devastating. However, judges have at their disposal several techniques to enforce child or spousal support orders and make the non-complying party pay. An experienced family law attorney can advise you in petitioning the court to use one of the enforcement options. In the last post, we discussed the garnishment of wages, the suspension of licenses, and the withholding of tax exemptions.


Contempt of court is the offense of failing to obey a court of law. There are two types of contempt: civil and criminal. When dealing with the failure to pay child support, civil contempt is much more common than criminal contempt. To show civil contempt, two things must be shown: (a) that there is a court order for the payor to pay alimony, and (b) that the payor has not paid. Payors can defeat contempt actions if they show that they cannot pay due to circumstances beyond their control and that the nonpayment is unintentional.

The Florida Supreme Court, in Bowen v. Bowen, held that criminal contempt requires a showing that (a) the payor has the ability to pay and (b) willfully refuses payment. Criminal contempt can result in incarceration, which must last no longer than 180 days. Since goal of the incarceration is to encourage payment, rather than to punish, the court will often purge the contempt charges if the defendant pays the delinquent amount.

Other Methods

There are several other methods that can be used to encourage the payment of child support.

  • If a payor is owed a tax refund, some of that refund may be paid to the payee to make up for delinquent payments.
  • Unemployment benefits may also be garnished, up to forty percent of the benefits.
  • Florida lottery winnings of at least $600 can be used to pay past-due support.
  • Workers’ compensation payments may also be used to pay delinquencies.
  • The court can place a lien on a car or boat titled in the delinquent payor’s name, as long as the payor owes at least $600.
  • The delinquency can be reported to credit bureaus, and, if payment is not made, the overdue support will appear on the payor’s credit reports.
  • Legal process can be sent to banks or other financial institutions to collect delinquent support payments.
  • The Florida Department of Revenue can file an action in circuit court, and if the payor does not appear, he or she can be arrested.
  • Finally, if the payor owes over $2,500, he or she becomes ineligible to have a passport renewed.

If you are not receiving your court-ordered child or spousal support payments, the advice and services of an skilled attorney can be invaluable. An attorney can help you to understand the options available and to decide which route to take. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.

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