Enforcing Orders


Information and Issues about Family Law Enforcement of Orders, Judgments, and Agreements in Florida.

Question: What can a person do when someone hasn’t paid court-ordered child support for years and years and the child is almost 18 years old?

The court usually retains jurisdiction to enforce its orders even if reservation of such jurisdiction isnot specifically stated in the final judgment or order. A motion for contempt or to enforce orders is usually brought before the court. Proper notice must be given if incarceration is requested for non-payment.

However, if a person waits too long to collect child support, the person who was supposed to pay child support can plead defenses of laches and equitable estoppel, which basically means that the payee waited too long to pursue his or her rights to collect child support, and the payor had a reasonable belief that the payee wasn’t going to go to court to try to collect or enforce the orders. However, because child support is a right vested in the child, not the parent, the judge may allow past child support to be ordered to be paid, or for some past medical bills to be paid, despite any valid defenses that might be raised.

Note that laches and equitable estoppel are affirmative defenses that need to be properly made to be used as a defense against unpaid child support.

Caution: do not rely on these answers for specific legal advice. Every person’s situation is different, and sometimes the child may have the right to pursue past due child support under certain circumstances if the parent did not.

Question: What can a person do to force someone to comply with equitable distribution orders? For example, when one party is supposed to give the other party some property, like furniture out of the marital home, and instead, the person sells the furniture at a garage sale and keeps the money?

Answer: When someone does not comply with equitable distribution orders, those are usually civil court issues, but family law judges retain jurisdiction to modify and enforce their orders and judgments. In the question above, the conversion actions of the person who sold the furniture and kept the money could be resolved by the family court judge that retained jurisdiction or a remedy could be sought in civil division, rather than domestic division. We can analyze the facts and law of your particular situation and advise and proceed in a manner best suited to your best interests.

Question: What can be done when a person is ordered to have certain contact with his or her children and he or she just doesn’t have the contact?
Answer: This is a sad situation that is too frequent if it only occurs in one case. Often the cause is that there is extreme hostility of one of the parents toward the other parent, and one parent foregoes contact with the children because he or she can’t stand the inevitable hostile contact he or she has to have with the other parent when the children are exchanged. This does not have to happen. Orders can be put into place to prevent hostile contact. Other causes are that the parent that isn’t having contact cannot manage the children, or he or she has a significant other whose lifestyle doesn’t go well with children in it, or the parent may not want the children to see what he or she is doing for fear the children will report it back to the othe parent.

In this type of situation, it might be better to modify the contact schedule rather than to enforce it. (See Changes to Judgments & Orders.)

Question: If someone is saying bad things about the other parent and the marital settlement agreement says that the parents aren’t supposed to do that, is there a motion to bring before the court to make them stop?
Answer: Yes, a person can file a motion for contempt for a person failing to abide by the principles of shared parenting. However, the law is fairly clear that people have the right to free speech and can say and write bad things about the other parent, but not in a way that causes the minor children will learn about it. Each parent is to act in a way to foster in each child respect and love for the other parent — even if one parent doesn’t think very highly of the other parent. Basically, each parent is to try and find some positive points about the other parent to mention to the children on an ongoing basis. On a realistic level, children know when parents are lying, so parents shouldn’t make up a lie about some non-existent good point. Similarly, a parent should not ignore clear signs of abuse or neglect by the other parent if it occurs. Shared parenting doesn’t mean to turn off common sense.

This information is not to be used as legal advice.
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