South Florida father forced to pay child support under rarely used law

'Willful failure to provide dependent support'

STUART — Tyler Archibald, the first Martin County resident arrested under a rarely used law for willfully not paying his child support, pleaded no contest to the charge Wednesday and was sentenced to five years' probation.

Under terms of the probation imposed by Circuit Judge William Roby, who withheld adjudication on the felony charge, Archibald must pay the $550 a week in child support for his two sons and pay over the next five years the $69,542.88 arrearage that has accumulated.

Archibald, 34, a salesman for a Stuart company, also must perform 25 hours of community service each month during the five-year probation, though Roby gave him the option to buy out the community service at $10 an hour. Further, he must pay $415 in court costs and notify the state within three days of any new employment.

Tired of complaining in family court, and armed with contempt orders outlining how her former husband was refusing to pay the child support a judge ruled he could afford, Archibald's former wife, Krista Cromwell of Palm City, alerted local authorities to a little-known state law that makes such behavior a felony.

The law under which Archibald was arrested April 25 is so rarely used that area court clerks said it was the first time anyone in Martin or St. Lucie counties has faced a count of "willful failure to provide dependent support" while allegedly having the financial ability to pay. Since 2003, only two Indian River County people have faced the same charge, a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum five-year prison term, records show.

Cromwell, who began pushing for Archibald's prosecution in October when she contacted the state attorney's office in Stuart and the offices of Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder and state Rep. Gayle Harrell, attended the hearing but made no comment.

Archibald, a former vehicle repossession professional, said after he was arrested, he could not afford the child support payments. He blamed a lousy economy, plus the 2008 loss of his business for souring his finances.

After the hearing Wednesday, he said he was rebuffed in his efforts to get the support payment reduced.

Assistant State Attorney Erin Kirkwood said a family court judge determined Archibald had the ability to pay the child support and refused to do so.

"When a parent persistently ignores a family court's order to the point the criminal court must become involved, the outcome will not be good for the deadbeat parent," Kirkwood said.

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