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How an Interest-for-Prepaid-Child-Support Provision in a Divorce Agreement Turned Into a Constitutional Case in the Florida Courts

ConstitutionA lot of family law cases get resolved based upon relatively straightforward legal bases – things like, “What do the Child Support Guidelines indicate is the proper amount of child support?” or “What custody arrangement does the judge conclude represents the best interest of the child?” Occasionally, though, some family law cases involve more expansive issues like Florida public policy or the U.S. Constitution. Regardless of whether your case involves litigating something related to the Child Support Guidelines or the U.S. Constitution, your case needs an experienced Florida child support attorney who is well-versed in all of the laws and knows how to apply them to your case.

One recent case in which the U.S. Constitution played an integral role in deciding the outcome was a child support dispute from Gainesville. The parents’ divorce was finalized in 2007 in Michigan. The couple’s Michigan final judgment included a mediation agreement that the couple had worked out. One of the provisions within that mediation agreement stated that the father had the option to prepay his child support for the couple’s two children and that, if he did so, he was entitled to “interest at the rate of one and a quarter percent per month on any amount of prepaid child support.” The agreement also stated that the father would not receive any payments of interest but would instead receive his interest in the form of credits against his future child support obligations.

The agreement additionally called for the couple to go through an annual process of calculating how much interest the father had earned that year. This last part led the couple back to court, with the father alleging that the mother had refused to participate in the mandatory annual accounting process. The mother, in opposition, argued that her participation (or lack thereof) was immaterial. The court was required to dismiss the father’s case, she maintained, since enforcing the interest-and-credit provision would leave the children without child support, and that made it contrary to Florida public policy.

The trial court sided with the mother and dismissed the case. The father, however, was able to appeal successfully. The reversal was not necessarily a result of the mother (or the lower court judge) being wrong about the credit provision being against Florida public policy. The reversal instead came about because the courts were required to answer to a higher authority. In this case, that higher authority was the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. One of the things that the Supremacy Clause requires is that courts enforce judgments that were “lawfully entered” in another state. In other words, regardless of whether the credit-for-prepaid-support provision did or did not violate Florida public policy, the provision was part of a judgment lawfully entered by a legitimate Michigan court, and the Florida courts were bound by the federal Constitution to enforce it, which meant that the father was entitled to proceed in his enforcement action.

Legal disputes, like many things in life, can sometimes take on a “life of their own.” Something may start out as a seemingly simple case of enforcing a provision in a mediation agreement and later turn into a matter with federal constitutional implications. Always be prepared for whatever comes your way by having skilled Florida family law counsel on your side from the start. The experienced South Florida child support attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have been helping people with a wide array of family law issues for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Hearsay Rule Prevents Admission of Florida Husband’s Bank Statements for Purpose of Imputing Income, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 3, 2017

When You Can Reopen Your Florida Child Support Case, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 19, 2017

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force / Public Domain