As one Florida court put it, “The tension between a child’s need for support and an incarcerated parent’s inability to provide such support is unavoidable.” That parent is unable to work much, if at all, yet because of the legal duty of a parent to support their child, an incarcerated parent’s child support obligation is not suspended or canceled in Florida during their confinement.
A common scenario is when the parent falls behind on payments while in jail and has no means with which to make them up. The period of incarceration does not relieve them from the duty to pay and the arrears continue to accumulate through the sentence. Often, the other parent may only be able to collect the late payments after the obligor (parent ordered to pay) regains their freedom and is able to return to regular employment.
On the other hand, if the incarcerated parent has assets, the recipient parent may be able to gain title to them to satisfy the child support owed even during the time the other parent is serving their sentence. The problem can often be finding those assets.
Examples of unusual or unexpected assets of the jailed parent that may be reachable are unclaimed property like forgotten accounts, stocks or bonds held by the state of Florida on behalf of their owners. Another might be money or property the obligor is set to inherit in a court probate proceeding in which the recipient may be able to intervene.
Florida Department of Revenue Child Support Program
The Department of Revenue (DOR) provides a valuable service to residents whose child support payments have stopped, including when the paying parent is incarcerated. On behalf of these parents and their children, the agency will take any of several potential actions to assist in collecting defaulted child support payments.
For example, the DOR may take these actions in certain circumstances to collect items of value for the receiving parent to satisfy the unpaid support:
- Place a lien on vehicles, mobile homes or boats
- Intercept money the delinquent payor parent has in an insurance settlement, workers’ compensation benefits or tax refund
- Seize state lottery winnings
- Collect money from bank or brokerage accounts
- And other actions
The confinement in jail or prison of a parent who has a child support obligation may make it challenging for the receiving parent to collect the full balance due, but financial relief may be possible.