Florida has several statutes that criminalize abuse of children. These statutes include bans on physical violence directed at children – which is what most people think of when they hear the term “child abuse.” However, some of Florida’s child abuse statutes outlaw behaviors that most people wouldn’t generally think of as child abuse – such as failure to pay child support.
Nonsupport of Dependents
If a parent is unwilling to pay the child support that he or she owes, despite having the ability to pay it, the parent can be charged with child abuse under Florida Statute 827.06. The charge would ordinarily be considered a first degree misdemeanor, but under special circumstances it can be more serious. If the parent is convicted, and he or she has been convicted of the same offense at least three times before, it will be considered a third degree felony. It will also be considered a third degree felony if he or she has owed at least $5,000 for a year or more.
The statute contains several other provisions, including the following:
- When a parent is convicted of an offense under 827.06, he or she will be required to pay the full amount of the child support that he or she owes, in addition to any other criminal penalties.
- A parent can be guilty under the statute even if he or she did not actually possess the funds to pay the child support, if it is determined that he or she didn’t make good faith efforts to obtain the funds.
- If a court order has been issued ordering a parent to pay child support, that is sufficient evidence to show that the parent knew that he or she was required to pay it.
The statute also contains a declaration by the Florida legislature regarding enforcement. It states that Florida’s public policy is for parents to be primarily responsible for supporting their children, rather than placing that obligation on public assistance programs. It also states that because of this, parents who violate the statute should be prosecuted whenever other methods of enforcement have not persuaded them to pay the child support that they owe.
Misuse of Child Support Money
Another child abuse statute, Florida Statute 827.08, criminalizes misuse of child support money. Under the legislation, it is a first degree misdemeanor to willfully misapply money that the government has paid out with the intention that it go to child support. Willful misapplication occurs when someone uses the money for something other than food, clothing, providing a home, or other life necessities.
The statute also places obligations on public welfare agencies. It requires such agencies to notify recipients of funds intended for child support about the statute’s requirements. It also requires them to inform prosecutors when they learn that violations of the statute have taken place.
How to Fight These Charges
If you or someone you know has been accused of violating any child support provision, it may be in your best interests to consult an attorney. Mark S. Lowry is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale. You can call or email his office today to schedule an appointment.