Many Jacksonville family law and divorce clients are surprised to learn it is possible to be sentenced to jail for failing to pay spousal or child support. Clients are even more shocked when it actually happens.
Circuit court judges in Florida can hold a family law party in civil contempt if the court finds that the person has the present ability to pay spousal or child support but refuse to do so. Jacksonville judges readily use this power and order a party incarcerated until payments are made. This results in significant stress for the client and his family.
If a Jacksonville family law or divorce client is wrongfully incarcerated by a Circuit Court judge, the only remedy is to file a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the First District Court of Appeal. Both the Florida Constitution and the rules of appellate procedure authorize a petition for writ of habeas corpus, which is referred to as an original proceeding. These “emergency” petitions must be drafted quickly and persuasively by a Florida appellate attorney and filed as soon as possible; while the attorney is drafting the petition and the appellate court considers its merits, the family law client sits in jail.
Florida Bar Board Certified Appellate Specialist William S. Graessle has drafted multiple emergency petitions for writ of habeas corpus for Jacksonville family law and divorce clients. One of his most recent victories came after Mr. Graessle worked nights and through the weekend to file an emergency petition for writ of habeas corpus for an incarcerated client which was quickly granted by the First District Court of Appeal. With these cases, time is of the essence, and filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus is a Jacksonville family law client’s only chance at being released from an unlawful incarceration.