In April of this year, one Florida mother had her ex-husband arrested for willful failure to pay his child support. He is now facing third-degree felony charges punishable by up to five years in prison.
If you didn't know about this potential punishment, you're not alone. While child support enforcement is usually handled as a civil court matter, there is a little-known Florida law that makes it a criminal matter under certain conditions. The biggest condition is that the obligor has the money to pay child support yet refuses to do so.
The law is so little-known and so rarely used that the frustrated and desperate mother actually had to research it herself. She says: "I just knew it had to be criminal not to support your children. Five times we have been to court, and five times the judge has (told her former husband) you have to pay your child support. It just never should have come to this."
Frustrated with the ineffectiveness of the civil court, she made calls to state prosecutors. They told her that no criminal law existed to prosecute her ex-husband for intentional failure to pay. After doing some internet research, however, she discovered that there is such a law. It has been on the books for decades but rarely gets used.
Florida Statute 827.06 makes it possible to criminally prosecute non-custodial parents who willfully fail to pay their court-ordered child support. The law states that any obligor who has the money to pay but fails to do so can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor and sentenced to a maximum of one year in county jail.
However, the crime is upgraded to a third-degree felony after four or more violations, or if the amount owed is over $5,000 and more than one year late. This is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Check back later this week as we discuss more about this important Florida law.
Source: tcpalm.com, "Palm City mom pushes for arrest of parents who are able but don't pay child support," Melissa E. Holsman, 04 July 2011
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