If a party to a lawsuit fails to comply with a court order regarding visitation, shared parental responsibility, child support, alimony, equitable distribution of assets and debts, there are several tools available to force compliance.
If a party fails to pay child support or alimony, a judge can hold the person in “contempt of court” and jail him/her. In order for a judge to jail a person for non-payment, a judge will determine a “purge amount” which the person can pay to get out of jail. The judge must also determine after an evidentiary hearing that the person has the present financial ability to pay the purge amount. This type of contempt, known as “civil contempt,” in effect gives the person a “key to get out of jail” (i.e., the purge amount).
A judge can jail a person for intentional or willfully disobeying any specific court order through a process known as “indirect criminal contempt.” This process does not involve a purge amount or a “key to get out of jail,” but rather is used only for punishment. The judge can impose a sentence up to six months in jail. The method used to obtain
There are other means available to enforce child support such as driver's license suspension. If a person owes a large amount of child support or alimony, I will obtain a court order (“reduce the arrears to a money judgment”) and file a certified copy of the order in every Florida county in which my client believes that his/her spouse or ex-spouse may own real estate. The money judgment, which earns interest at the statutory rate (11% per annum in 2007), serves a judgment lien against any real property owned by the non-paying party. Therefore, there can be no sale of the property until the judgment lien and accrued interest, is paid off. In addition to the above-stated enforcement procedures – civil contempt, indirect criminal contempt, and use of a money judgment and a judgment lien – there are many other procedures available - writ of execution (for levy and sale), writ of attachment, writ of garnishment (for example, entry of an Income Deduction Order for payment of child support, alimony, arrears and/or attorney fees regarding child support and/or alimony; this writ is preferred if the debtor has no or significantly liened real or personal property or owns the property jointly with third party). Florida Statute 61.17(3), and other law, provides that a person can use different enforcement procedures in same lawsuit. Prior Florida law, required a person to make an election of the one method he or she intended to use to enforce child support or alimony
Out of state divorce final judgments can usually be easily enforced in Florida under Chapter 55, Florida Statutes. For example, if the parties lived in Michigan and were divorced there, and the former husband was ordered to pay alimony, the former wife could have the final judgment enforced by obtaining a certified copy of the final judgment and filing a Petition to Register and Enforce Out of State Final Judgment locally. Once the court entered a final judgment registering the Michigan final judgment as a Florida decree, the judge here could enforce the Michigan final judgment as if it had been entered here.
Contact Pinellas County Divorce Attorney Richard C. Griesinger today!