(1) The Legislature finds that most parents want to support their children and remain connected to their families. The Legislature also finds that while many parents lack the financial resources and other skills necessary to provide that support, some parents willfully fail to provide support to their children even when they are aware of the obligation and have the ability to do so. The Legislature further finds that existing statutory provisions for civil enforcement of support have not proven sufficiently effective or efficient in gaining adequate support for all children. Recognizing that it is the public policy of this state that children shall be maintained primarily from the resources of their parents, thereby relieving, at least in part, the burden presently borne by the general citizenry through public assistance programs, it is the intent of the Legislature that the criminal penalties provided for in this section are to be pursued in all appropriate cases where civil enforcement has not resulted in payment.
(2) Any person who willfully fails to provide support which he or she has the ability to provide to a child or a spouse whom the person knows he or she is legally obligated to support commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083 .
(3) Any person who is convicted of a fourth or subsequent violation of subsection (2) or who violates subsection (2) and who has owed to that child or spouse for more than 1 year support in an amount equal to or greater than $5,000 commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 , s. 775.083 , or s. 775.084 .
(4) Upon a conviction under this section, the court shall order restitution in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing.
(5)(a) Evidence that the defendant willfully failed to make sufficient good faith efforts to legally acquire the resources to pay legally ordered support may be sufficient to prove that he or she had the ability to provide support but willfully failed to do so, in violation of this section.
(b) The element of knowledge may be proven by evidence that a court or tribunal as defined by s. 88.1011 has entered an order that obligates the defendant to provide the support.
(6) It is the intent of the Legislature for the state attorneys, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, and the Department of Revenue to work collaboratively to identify strategies that allow the criminal penalties provided for in this section to be pursued in all appropriate cases, including, but not limited to, strategies that would assist the state attorneys in obtaining additional resources from available federal Title IV-D funds to initiate prosecution pursuant to this section.
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