DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT, o/b/o JORDYN BAKER, Appellant,
GUSTAVUS BAKER, Appellee.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,
Broward County; John Patrick Contini, Judge; L.T. Case Nos.
FMCE-11-008949 (44), FMCE-05-12631 (44), FMCE-14-005105 (44),
FMCE-11-006661 (44), FMCE-15-0000137 (44), FMCE-15-010832
(44), FMCE-13-007427 (44), FMCE-14-004080 (44),
FMCE-10-004790 (44), FMCE-14-010763 (44), FMCE-13-000070
(44), FMCE-14-007341 (44), FMCE-11-005723 (44),
FMCE-14-009785 (44), FMCE-08-014480 (44), FMCE-04-000962
(44), FMCE-13-011756 (44), FMCE-10-000480 (44),
FMCE-15-012067 (44), FMCE-97-013149 (44), FMCE-15-007907
(44), FMCE-15-014176 (44), FMCE-14-011745 (44),
FMCE-12-006618 (44), FMCE-15-004297 (44), FMCE-15-013294
(44), FMCE-15-000801 (44), FMCE-15-005923 (44) and CSE Nos.
1377877591, 1218304448, 2000779290, 1359455256, 1383799431,
2000862932, 1279881925, 1346389080, 1296667308, 2000047883,
2000251912, 2000579476, 1266397060, 2000372682, 1296243419,
1044341327, 2000734800, 1313712507, 2000786720, 1041650141,
2000322284, 1222113945, 2000004279, 1242567712, 2000827215,
2000767855, 2000811717, 2000807160.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Carrie R. McNair, Assistant
Attorney General, Tallahassee, for appellant.
appearance for appellee.
consolidated appeal, the Department of Revenue (the
"DOR") appeals the trial court's denial of its
motion for civil contempt due to failure to pay child support
in twenty-eight separate cases. In each case, the court's
denial was based on its conclusion that the DOR's service
of its motion via U.S. Mail was insufficient. Because this
method of service is legislatively authorized and satisfies
due process concerns, we reverse and remand.
of the underlying cases, the DOR filed a motion for civil
contempt based on each appellee's non-payment of
court-ordered child support. Some of the appellees were
ordered to pay child support in conjunction with final
dissolutions of marriage entered pursuant to Chapter 61 of
the Florida Statutes and others were ordered to pay child
support in conjunction with paternity judgments entered
pursuant to Chapter 742 of the Florida Statutes. In each
case, the DOR attached a certificate of service representing
that a copy of its motion was served on the appellee "by
regular U.S. Mail." Similarly, the DOR sent a notice of
hearing to each appellee "by regular U.S. Mail."
The notices provided that "FAILURE TO APPEAR AT THE
HEARING MAY RESULT IN THE COURT ISSUING A WRIT OF ATTACHMENT
FOR YOUR ARREST. IF YOU ARE ARRESTED, YOU MAY BE HELD IN JAIL
UP TO 48 HOURS BEFORE A HEARING IS HELD."
the appellees failed to appear at their respective hearings,
which took place in front of a hearing officer. Each hearing
officer recommended that the court grant the DOR's motion
for contempt and issue a writ of bodily attachment with
varied purge amounts based on the individual facts of the
case. Despite the foregoing, the trial court entered a
blanket order rejecting each hearing officer's
recommendations and denying the DOR's motions. In its
order, the court found that, although permitted by statute,
notice of a civil contempt proceeding provided by mail was
constitutionally inadequate. This was incorrect.
Law Rule of Procedure 12.615(b) governs the service of
motions for civil contempt in support matters, and provides:
(b) Motion and Notice. Civil contempt may be
initiated by motion. The motion must recite the essential
facts constituting the acts alleged to be contemptuous. No
civil contempt may be imposed without notice to the alleged
contemnor and without providing the alleged contemnor with an
opportunity to be heard. The civil contempt motion and notice
of hearing may be served in accordance with Florida Rule of
Judicial Administration 2.516 provided notice is reasonably
calculated to apprise the alleged contemnor of the pendency
of the proceedings. The notice must specify the time and
place of the hearing and must contain the following language:
"FAILURE TO APPEAR AT THE HEARING MAY RESULT IN THE
COURT ISSUING A WRIT OF BODILY ATTACHMENT FOR YOUR ARREST. IF
YOU ARE ARRESTED, YOU MAY BE HELD IN JAIL UP TO 48 HOURS
BEFORE A HEARING IS HELD." This notice must also state
whether electronic recording or a court reporter is provided
by the court or whether a court reporter, if desired, must be
provided by the party.
Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516(b)(2), in turn, states:
Service on and by all parties who are not represented by an
attorney and who do not designate an e-mail address, and on
and by all attorneys excused from e-mail service, must be
made by delivering a copy of the document or by mailing it to
the party or attorney at their last known address or, if no
address is known, by leaving it with the clerk of the court.
Service by mail is complete upon mailing.
on the foregoing, in a civil contempt proceeding for failure
to pay child support, "service by mail is
sufficient." Pennington v. Pennington, 390
So.2d 809, 810 (Fla. 5th DCA 1980).
both Chapter 61 (governing dissolution of marriages) and 742
(the paternity chapter) expressly provide that service of
process via mail in child support actions comports with due
process. In order to receive certain federal funding, the
Legislature enacted sections 742.032(1) and 61.13(7)(a) of
the Florida Statutes, wherein it created a State Case
Registry system which requires "each party to any
paternity or child support proceeding" to file
"information on location and identity of the party"
with the tribunal and update that information as appropriate.
Because the parties are statutorily required to keep their
contact information current and accurate, the Legislature
also provided that in any child support enforcement action,
"the court of competent jurisdiction shall deem state
due process requirements for notice and service of process to
be met with respect to the party upon ...