In the vast majority of child support cases, you would naturally assume that when words like “reprehensible” and “irresponsible” are found in a court order that they are directed toward a father who has failed to meet his obligations. In a very unusual case out of the state of Florida, however, these words were actually directed toward prosecutors.
It all started back in December 2010, when Lina M. went to the State Attorney’s Office and filed a sworn affidavit accusing her ex-husband, Tony S., of owing $3,632.25 in back child support for the couple’s six-year-old son.
After learning of the issue, Tony S. filed documents with both the court and prosecutors indicating that he didn’t owe any money whatsoever. However, the State Attorney’s Office still proceeded to certify the back child support and report it to the state Department of Revenue, setting off a serious chain reaction.
Florida law requires officials with the Department of Revenue to report any non-custodial parent owing over $2,500 to the federal child support office. Upon receipt of this information, the federal child support office will forward it to the State Department, which will then freeze the delinquent parent’s passport.
Tony S. learned all of this the hard way when he went to renew his passport, which he needed to travel for his job as CEO of a tech sales firm that markets in Latin America. Here, he was forced to miss significant time away from work since he was unable to leave the country.
After a multitude of court hearings, a Miami-area judge ultimately issued an order holding that Tony S. had indeed proven that he owed no back child support and that instead of correcting the issue, prosecutors “engaged in pointless litigation.”
The judge didn’t stop there, however, calling the actions of the prosecutors and of Lina M. both “reprehensible” and “irresponsible,” and ordering them to each pay $7,645 to cover Tony S.’ legal fees.
The State Attorney’s Office has indicated that it will not appeal the order and that it has since implemented a new policy whereby prosecutors will not report child support arrears to the Department of Revenue absent a court order.
As for Tony S., he is currently examining the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit.
To learn more about nonpayment of child support or other post-divorce issues, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.
Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …
This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
The Miami Herald, “Miami judge calls child support prosecutor’s actions ‘reprehensible,’” David Ovalle, Feb. 7, 2013