Child support enforcement – dueling decrees

The Indiana Supreme Court  has decided that an Indiana trial court had the power to stay a father’s jail sentence for non payment of child support conditioned upon payment in an amount less than that ordered by a Florida court.

Suzanne Hamilton filed an action in Indiana to enforce the Florida court order requiring Richard Hamilton to pay child support.  The Vanderburgh Superior Court entered multiple orders that found Richard in contempt, but stayed the related jail sentence on condition that Richard make child support payments in an amount less than that ordered by the Florida court.  On Suzanne’s appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion.

The high court found: “We are obligated to give the Florida order the same effect it would receive in a Florida court. But we are directed to no principle of Florida law that mandates imprisonment for contempt for violation of a support order, or precludes orders that attempt to maximize compliance in light of realistic prospects of payment. To the contrary, Florida, like any sensible jurisdiction, recognizes that some flexibility in enforcement is in the interest of the affected child.” Hamilton v. Hamilton, 2009 Ind . Lexis 1365 *15-16 (Ind. Oct. 7, 2009).

We [*16] are obligated to give the Florida order the same effect it would receive in a Florida court. But we are directed to no principle of Florida law that mandates imprisonment for contempt for violation of a support order, or precludes orders that attempt to maximize compliance in light of realistic prospects of payment. To the contrary, Florida, like any sensible jurisdiction, recognizes that some flexibility in enforcement is in the interest of the affected child.