I got a letter that I have to pay child support, but I never went to Court. What Should I Do?

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The short answer, yes, this happens all of the time and you should get a Florida Family Law attorney to review the documents and represent you to protect your legal rights. In Florida, historically, when a parent is looking to collect child support from another parent, they go to court, the judge determines whether the man is the father, they create a child support amount, and everyone carries on from that point.  Another procedure has been getting more popular in recent years, however, and it is called the administrative establishment of child support.

The Department of Revenue is the state agency that works with custodial parents to collect child support, both from citizens who are in need of legal help for a small fee and also from citizens who receive public assistance for their children.   The law allows the Department of Revenue to either use circuit courthouse to establish child support, or to use the administrative process.  In the administrative process, parents are sent a letter that the Department of Revenue has started a case against them, and gives the parents twenty days to respond. Unlike the procedure in circuit court, no one comes out to serve the paperwork, they just receive a certified letter in the mail.  It is assumed that if a person receives a letter, or a letter is signed for by a household member that the mail will be read by the addressed person.

This may not always be true, and can result in a child support order being entered against you, without going to court. If the parent does not respond, then the procedure moves forward, and with or without the involvement of the other parent, child support will be established, and will be a court order with the same effect of one that you would get from the courthouse.  So, it would be possible for a person to have a child support, and not know it if they did not open the letter that they received from the Department of Revenue.  This can have huge effects on the paying spouse, because if they are not aware of it, and their case does not have an income deduction order, then obviously, the Department of Revenue can seek to suspend their driver’s license, or any other method to make someone pay their child support.   Not only that, but if a parent wishes to have a DNA test or has a question whether they are the father or not, that issue can be addressed in the administrative process but only if the parent takes the necessary steps to participate.

You have rights and you need to protect them, as you only have twenty days to exercise them. You should act quickly and speak to an attorney who can help to guide you on what the best approach is for the needs of your case. If you receive one of these letters, you need to contact an experienced family law attorney that not only is knowledgeable in child support matters,  but also in how this administrative procedure works for the establishment of these cases.

The Florida Family Law Attorneys at Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. have been representing family law clients since 1957.  For 60 years, we have taken pride in our service to both clients and the community.  As part of our community service efforts, we provide free publications to clients and prospective clients including the book titled Florida Family Law – Enforcing Your Legal Rights and Rebuilding Your Life.  You can get this book for free at Florida Family Law Book.