November 14, 2011

Can I Put Twenty Bucks On It?: Fourth DCA Answers “No” Regarding Substantial Child Support Arrearage

Hernandez v. Frontiero
Case No. 4D10-4122

The Fourth District Court of Appeal (“DCA”) reviewed a trial court order finding a father in contempt for failure to pay child support. The order also allowed the father to pay only $20 per month towards his total child support arrearage of $18,499.75. The Fourth DCA noted that pursuant to section 61.14(5)(a), Fla. Stat., the final judgment of support created the presumption that the father had the ability to pay the child support. The father had failed to appear at the contempt hearing and show his inability to purge the contempt. The magistrate still recommended the father be allowed to pay only $20 towards the arrearage.

Relying on Lamar v. Lamar, 889 So. 2d 983 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009), the Fourth DCA held that the record did not contain competent substantial evidence to support the magistrate’s recommendation. The court reasoned that at $20 per month it would take the father until the child was twenty-nine years old to pay off the arrearage, thus defeating the very purposes of child support. The Fourth DCA held that it was error for the trial court to allow such a prolonged payment schedule. The court also held that the mother was entitled to interest on the arrearage amount.