If you have been ordered to pay child support in Florida, you must make the payments or risk severe sanctions, including arrest for noncompliance. However, arrests are not the first tactic employed by the state. First, you may be allowed to enter into a payment plan or face smaller penalties like having your driver's license suspended or tax refunds intercepted. However, if you fail to appear at an enforcement hearing to explain yourself, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest.
You can contact the hearing officer or law enforcement to determine if a warrant has been issued.
Custody and Child Support
Before a child support warrant can be issued, there first must be a child support order in place. Typically, this step occurs after custody is established. Florida, like all states, assigns physical and legal custody to parents. Legal custody, known as parental responsibility in Florida, is the right to make important decisions about a child's upbringing, such as where he will attend church and go to school.
This responsibility can either be shared between parents or held by one parent alone. Physical custody, known as time-sharing in Florida, is the right to provide a home for the child. Although this responsibility can be shared between parents, one parent usually provides a home for the child on a full-time basis while the other parent has visitation. The parent with visitation rights is typically the one ordered to pay child support.
Establishing Child Support
Florida, like all states, requires parents to financially support the children they bring into the world. Although it is not required, parents with physical custody of their children, commonly referred to as custodial parents, can establish a child support order either through the court system or by enrolling in Florida's Child Support Program (CSP). Once an official child support order is in place, Florida's courts and CSP both can ensure the noncustodial parent meets his payment obligations by using various enforcement tools, including issuing a child support warrant.
If only an informal child support arrangement is in place, a warrant cannot be issued if the noncustodial parent stops paying since Florida courts and CSP can only enforce official child support orders.
When Payments Are Missed
When a parent ordered to pay child support stops or falls behind, Florida's Department of Revenue will often file legal action against the parent in circuit court to enforce the child support order. Both parents are notified of the hearing location, date and time; this also serves as an opportunity for the past-due parent to explain why he has fallen behind. To encourage payment, a number of enforcement methods may be employed, including placing the parent on a payment plan, suspending his driver's and professional licenses, intercepting tax refunds and lottery winnings, seizing bank accounts, placing liens on property, garnishing unemployment and worker's compensation benefits, and reporting negative payment history his on credit report. If the parent ordered to pay child support fails to appear at the scheduled hearing, the court may issue a warrant for his arrest.
Determining Issuance of Child Support Warrant
If a parent suspects a warrant for his arrest has been issued for nonpayment of child support, there are a few ways he can find out for sure. He can contact the child support hearing officer. If he doesn't know who this is, he can contact the courthouse where the hearing was originally scheduled to obtain this information. He can also contact his local police department or look up this information online by conducting a search on the Writs Online page of the Department of Revenue's website or the Public Access System of the Department of Law Enforcement's website.