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.
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.
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 Child Support 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. However, 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 child 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 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.
It doesn’t mean all your monetary assets will be frozen, though. If you receive governmental help, such as TANF, SSI, or State Veteran’s help (among other related aids) such funds will not be touched. Neither will those you hold but do not belong to you, such as money you may have that belongs to someone whom you have guardianship over. If the State was to inappropriately touch that capital, it will be released as soon as the state receives the appropriate form and supporting documents.
If such levy 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. Such motion must be sent within two weeks of receiving the initial Notice of Levying and contain all necessary supporting documents. After the government reviews your documents it will either decide to lift the levying (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 family law attorneys in Tallahassee, we have received several calls from fathers 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 state is seizing your funds illegally then you have the right to request a judicial review of the case.