What Are Florida Child Support Laws on Property Liens?
By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.
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To ensure that children in Florida have the financial support they need, the state has several methods for enforcing child support orders, including property liens. While a parent may independently file an action with the court to enforce a child support order, state departments may also initiate enforcement actions if a parent is more than 15 days past due on support.
Under Florida law, the Department of Revenue's Child Support Enforcement Program enforces child support orders. When the department is involved, the State Disbursement Unit will collect and distribute child support payments. The department has several methods for enforcing child support orders, including license suspension, intercepting lottery winnings and placing liens on property. However, parents are also permitted to initiate private actions against a nonpaying parent instead of going through the Department of Revenue. If requested, the court may place liens on property or suspend licenses to urge a nonpaying parent to comply with his child support obligations.
Child Support Payments
The method of payment for child support will depend on the original court order. The order may require that payments are made directly to the other parent or collected and distributed by the clerk of the court or State Disbursement Unit. Some parents may have payments automatically deducted from their paycheck or electronically transferred from a bank account. In cases where payments are made through a state agency, the state can keep track of payments and initiate enforcement measures when a parent falls behind.
Notice of Delinquency
For parents making payments to a state agency, the clerk of the court may begin the enforcement process if the parent's payment is more than 15 days late and the amount due is more than one regular payment. The clerk will send a notice of delinquency to the nonpaying parent to give her a chance to respond. The parent may contest the notice if she does not believe she is delinquent or is in disagreement with the amount cited. For example, the parent may state that she was making payments directly to the other parent or that she is no longer obligated to make payments because the child reached the age of majority.
After receiving notice, if the nonpaying parent does not make up for missed child support payments, Florida law allows the state to file notice of the judgment lien with the Department of State. State law allows judgment liens to be placed on personal property, including vehicles, and real estate. However, the state makes an exception for a parent's home in Florida. The child support owed is secured by the lien; thus, the parent would not be able to sell the property without first paying off the debt owed.
Elizabeth Rayne earned her J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2009, advising clients on issues ranging from employment law to nonprofit management. For two years, she served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."