Contempt of Court/Penalties for Non-Payment of Child Support or Alimony

Can a court order incarceration as a penalty for contempt of continuous refusal to pay child support or alimony?   What other penalties are avaialble for non-payment of support?

A Court can enter a civil order of contempt and impose incarceration as a penalty for non-payment of child support and alimony, where evidence shows the payor has a present financial ability to comply with the ordered payments. Owens v. Owens, 578 So.2d 444 (Fla. 1st DCA, 1991). 

Incarceration cannot be used as a means to seek compliance with a court order when the contemnor does not have the ability to purge himself of contempt. However, the court does have other means available to obtain compliance.

If, for example, the payor has willfully neglected his support obligations, but no longer has a present ability to pay because he is unemployed, the court may direct him to seek employment through Florida State Employment Services and to report weekly until employment is secured, in addition to requesting the employment service to periodically report to the court on the status of his job search.

If the party is employed but presently lacks funds or assets, the court may issue a writ directing his employer to garnish the party's salary in order to satisfy the alimony or child support obligations in accordance with F.S.A. § 61.12, or may enter an income deduction order for payment of child support or alimony, pursuant to F.S.A. § 61.081 or § 61.1301.  CHILD SUPPORT, FACS FL-CLE 5-1.

A court may also suspend a person’s driver’s license and/or professional license.  The Title IV-D agency may place a lien for unpaid child support over $600 on motor vehicles or vessels owned by the delinquent obligor.  The Title IV-D agency may intercept federal income tax refunds to obtain payment of past due child support.

Also, unpaid alimony and child support payments under a preexisting order are vested and the obligee has a right to a judgment for arrearages. Dept. of Revenue ex rel. King v. Blocker, 806 So.2d 607 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002); Milopoulos v. Milopoulos, 691 So.2d 1199 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997). Once the judgment for arrearages is entered, it may be enforced through additional payments under an income deduction order, F.S.A. § 61.1301(1)(b), by garnishment, F.S.A. § 61.12, by entry of a lien against real property, or by contempt proceedings.