Is your ex behind on their spousal support payments to you? Do you rely on that alimony to pay expenses or bills? Does the money help to maintain the home you provide for your children? Whatever your ex-spouse’s reasons, Florida law provides ways for you to request that the court enforce your spousal support order, allowing you to collect that delinquent support.
It may be possible to negotiate with your ex-spouse to resolve repayment of the past-due money. A Florida family lawyer can analyze your circumstances and provide information on your options. Florida courts have broad powers based in statutes and equity (fairness) to craft a solution that will assist an alimony recipient in recovering delinquent support payments.
When an ex-spouse violates a court order for alimony, they may be found in contempt of court. Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Rule 12.615 allows the recipient to move for civil contempt for alimony delinquencies and the court may impose sanctions to “compel compliance.” Sanctions may include incarceration, payment of the recipient ex-spouse’s court costs or legal fees, fines or others.
To be in contempt, the payor must have willfully disobeyed the order to pay alimony and have the current ability to do so. If the judge orders jail time or another “coercive sanction,” they must include in the order a “purge provision” establishing conditions under which the payor could have their contempt purged.
Judgment for alimony arrears
Another option is to request that the court enter a judgment in your favor and against your ex-spouse for delinquent alimony payments based on your right to payment under the divorce decree or other court order for alimony. If you get a judgment for the past-due alimony, you are likely also eligible for prejudgment and postjudgment interest, court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
Should the payor fail to pay the judgment, you could still pursue contempt.
In part 2 of this post, we will discuss the court’s power to preserve certain assets as security for alimony as well as options for collecting on a judgment for late payments.