When your divorce decree orders your ex to pay alimony, you have the right to expect complete and timely payment. A court order created that spousal support obligation and your former spouse has the legal duty to comply.
In the real world, unfortunately, sometimes alimony obligors do not make payments as ordered. It can be because of job loss, illness, incarceration or increased expenses – or sometimes just out of spite.
Should you find yourself high and dry as an alimony recipient, talk to a family lawyer about enforcing your divorce decree and getting a court order to collect what is rightfully due to you.
Whether your spousal support award was the product of a settlement agreement or crafted by a judge, it is part of the final order dissolving your marriage. Several ways exist to approach collection of delinquent alimony:
- Negotiate a repayment agreement with the payor spouse or ask the court to structure one.
- Ask the court for a judgment against your ex for the delinquent amount, including interest, legal fees and costs.
- Enforce the judgment with a court order for garnishment to have your exe’s employer withhold your money from their paycheck.
- Enforce the judgment by having the sheriff seize and sell the alimony payor’s personal property or non-homestead real estate (with narrow exception) to satisfy the support arrears.
- Petition the court to issue an injunction (order to act) to preserve your exe’s assets (such as placing a lien on real estate) as a resource that could generate money for alimony.
- Seek a court order to have the delinquent spouse bonded.
- Ask the court to order the payor to take out a life insurance policy to protect your monetary interests in the late alimony.
- File a creditor’s claim against the paying spouse’s estate if they pass away before you have collected the delinquency.
- And others
Contempt of court
When someone disobeys a court order, a judge may find them in contempt of court. An ex-spouse who is owed late support payments could ask the court to find the payor spouse in civil contempt. This could happen either when they fail to pay in violation of the original divorce order or if they do not satisfy a later judgment for alimony arrears.
If you can show that they disobeyed a court order and they cannot prove that compliance was impossible, the court may find the noncompliant spouse in civil contempt of court. The judge could order a variety of sanctions at this point until they make the past-due payments, including compensatory or punitive fines, jail or the payment of your legal fees or costs.
An experienced divorce attorney can explain your options and the pros and cons of each in your situation.