If you're late with payments on your child support in Florida, the arrearages build up until you pay them — either on your own or because of a court order. It's at the discretion of the court to order you to make payments, pay a purge amount or both. If you haven't paid support, the court generally enters an income deduction order if one hasn't been previously entered. If you already have an income deduction order and changed jobs, the court enters an amended order for your new employer, which also includes arrearages.
Steps Leading Up to a Purge Amount
Child support arrearages could grow to large amounts. If the obligee — the parent that collects support — doesn't notify the court that you, the obliger, haven't been paying, the arrearages pile up. The obligee files a motion to compel child support payments. You have to attend a hearing where the court orders you to pay the support, including the arrearages. If you continue not paying, you may be held in contempt of court.
Once you're held in contempt, the court can take a number of actions, including removing your driving privileges or ordering jail time. Additionally, the court orders you to pay arrearages — the amount that's past due. If you receive jail time or have your driving privileges revoked, you can request that the court suspend its order in exchange for a purge amount.
The court may order both parties to file updated financial affidavits, especially if you state that you can't pay the normal child-support amount. You must also provide other discovery — in other words, what assets and liabilities you have.
Purge amounts are determined at the sole discretion of the court. The court looks at the entire case history to see if you're consistently late and what the amount of each child support payment is and takes into consideration the need of the child and your ability to pay. It doesn't matter if you think you can't pay: The court looks at your mandatory bills, such as electric, water, insurance for the children and alimony and, of course, your income. Obligations that aren't needed to live, such as cable television and cell phones, aren't usually considered. The court may order you to pay a purge amount of the entire balance due or may divide the balance due into two or more payments.
The court's order includes a time frame for you to come up with the purge amount. If it thinks you're hiding money, it orders you to pay the purge amount within a matter of hours. If the court finds that you're having a true financial crisis, it may allow a modification of child support payments and order a small purge amount or no purge amount.
If you find that you're unable to make child support payments when they're due, immediately contact your attorney or the clerk of court to file a modification. Filing the modification action documents that you're having a true financial crisis due to loss of income. Depending on the judge sitting on the bench, the court may be more sympathetic to your case; rather than ordering a purge, it may modify the child support payments on a temporary or permanent basis. It also may not order a purge amount but rather small payments to catch up on the arrearages.