How to Stop Child Support Garnishment in Florida?
The State of Florida, through the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division, systematically pursues individuals who fail to pay their court mandated child support. There are a variety of enforcement mechanisms that range from appropriation of Lotto winnings exceeding $600 to pay the delinquent child support, to driver’s and professional license suspension, to liens on real property, and even arrest warrants. Before the state moves to such measures, however, it is more likely to garnish your bank account, a process also known as placing a “levy” on such account. As child support lawyer in Tallahassee, we can assist you.
What is garnishment?
The garnishment of an account means that if child support payments are not fulfilled, the state will send a notice to your bank in order to collect the owed debt. Levying, the previously mentioned term, simply refers to an account that has been seized in order to satisfy a debt.
How do I know if an account is going to be garnished to pay child support?
The state doesn’t freeze your account without informing you of it before, nor are you powerless against such notices. You will get a Note of Delinquency stating that in 30 days or less you must either pay the child support you owe or send back a form requesting they review whether you do owe unpaid child support. Such form buys you some time, since the state cannot levy your accounts until they review your case and inform you of their findings.
If you do fail to send the money or the form back your accounts will be levied either for 60 days or for as long as it takes you to pay the lagged support. When this occurs, you should receive an appropriate notice. However, we have seen in our own office and heard from other child support lawyers in Tallahassee and child support lawyers in Florida that these notices are not always sent to the proper address nor do they necessarily contain the appropriate information to truly put someone on notice of the intent to levy.
What happens if I don’t respond to the child support garnishment letter?
Failing to respond (or responding and having your objection overruled) does not mean all your monetary assets will be frozen. If you receive governmental help, such as TANF, SSI, or State Veteran’s help (among other related public benefits) such funds should not be touched. Neither should those funds you hold, but do not belong to you, such as money you may have that belongs to someone whom you have guardianship over or money that can be clearly shown to belong to a joint account holder.
If Florida’s Department of Revenue Child Support Division was to inappropriately touch that money, it should be released as soon as the state receives the appropriate form and supporting documents. Unfortunately, however, we have seen several occasions where the Florida Department of Revenue ignores objection letters, seizes other people’s funds and makes it difficult to retrieve or unfreeze the money that has been garnished.
What if I cannot afford to live if past due child support is garnished?
If a child support levy in Florida causes you severe hardship, such as making you homeless or lose your job, or it keeps you from being able to buy food or paying your employees, then you may contact the State through a Motion to Lift Bank Levy. If this happens in North Florida, you can call our Tallahassee child support lawyers to assist with such a motion.
If you choose to go it alone (without a lawyer), keep in mind these motions must usually be sent within two weeks of receiving the initial Notice of Levy and they must contain all necessary supporting documentation. After the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Florida Department of Revenue reviews your documents, it will either decide to lift the levy (and if you haven’t paid might enforce the payments another way) or rule that their initial decision to garnish your account was appropriate.
As a child support lawyer in Tallahassee, I have received several calls from fathers (and sometimes mothers) whose accounts appear to have been improperly garnished or who we assist with objections to bank account levies. While Hardship decisions cannot be reviewed by the Court, if you truly believe the Florida Department of Revenue is seizing your funds illegally then you have the right to request a judicial review of the case.