Earlier this week, we wrote that one Florida mother recently took advantage of a little-known state law that makes willful failure to pay child support a crime. Her ex-husband now faces third-degree felony charges which could result in up to five years in prison.
Under Florida Statute 827.06, an obligor who has the money to pay but willfully refuses to do so can be prosecuted. In order to qualify as a felony, the obligor must owe more than $5,000 and be more than a year late with payments.
Court records show that the man failed to pay child support from January 2009 through June of 2010. At the time of his arrest in April of this year, his child support obligations exceeded $42,000.
In order for prosecutors to convict in cases like this, they must be able to prove that an obligor had the money to pay but failed to do so. The man admits that he failed to pay his $600 a month in child support. However, he says it is because he fell on hard economic times.
In 2008, the man lost his business and his finances took a hit. He then invested $25,000 into a local business venture that also failed. He says he should have filed for a modification to reduce his child support payments but he didn't.
This is a mistake, according to legal experts. A Florida law professor says that any obligors who experience a drop in income should petition the court for a payment modification immediately. Otherwise, they could be prosecuted under this statute. He adds: "if you sleep on your rights, you lose them."
By the way, prison time does not repay the debt. The law states that the full amount of late child support at the time of sentencing must still be paid. Therefore, the smartest plan is to pay child support now or petition for a reduction immediately.
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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