When you become a parent, you are responsible for caring and providing for your child until they can become old or independent enough to fend for themselves. And most parents live up to this obligation. However, when a relationship ends in a divorce or separation, the court will, among other things, determine how the child is provided for. And this is where a child support order comes in.
At its very basic, child support or child maintenance is the money the court orders one parent (usually the non-custodial parent) to pay the other parent for the purpose of meeting the child’s day-to-day needs such as food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education. Being court-ordered, child support is binding, and a failure to make the payments on time can lead to serious consequences. So what do you do if you can no longer honor your child support obligations?
Understanding the consequences of failing to pay child support
To figure out how to handle things if you fall behind in child support, you need to start by understanding what failure to pay child support means.
Per Florida law, you will be held in contempt if you fail to pay court-ordered child support. Some of the actions the court might take include imposing fines, suspension of your driver’s license, seizure of your bank account and interception of your tax refunds. In extreme cases, failure to pay child support can also lead to jail time.
What to do when you fall behind on your child support payments
As soon as it becomes apparent that you are struggling to pay child support, you need to let the court that issued the order be aware of your situation. Even if your co-parent understands the reasons for your failure to pay, be sure to inform the court and petition for a child support modification.
Here are some of the instances when the court may approve your petition to modify child support:
- When you have lost your job or source of income
- When you are dealing with an unforeseen medical expense
Protecting your rights
Like any other court order, a child support order is a big deal. If you are unable to pay child support for whatever reason, it is important to understand that you can petition the court for a modification.