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My Husband or Wife Won’t Pay Alimony – What Can I Do?

Where Strategy Meets Skill

You’ve been through a divorce. You prevailed in alimony. But your spouse won’t pay. What next?

The answer likely won’t thrill you, as it will involve a return to the Courts. Whether or not you will require the assistance of a lawyer in doing so will depend upon the complexity of your case.

Because there is a Final Judgment, you have an enforceable right that has been established by law. How to enforce it, however, can be done in a variety of ways. One of the best and easiest ways is to request payment of the alimony stipend by an Income Withholding Order (IWO).

In some cases (particularly those that settled out of court – which FYI is 95% of divorces), people do not think to ask for an IWO. They instead agree to “direct” payments between the spouses. This might work well for some people. For others, however, it is better to take a more direct route.

An IWO is an order signed by the judge that is premised upon a Final Judgment or Order that has found entitlement to support. The IWO directs “any and all” employers of the obligor spouse to automatically take out whatever the support obligation might be, and to send it to the Central Government Depository (CGD). The CGD thereafter cuts the check to the obligee spouse, directly. This effectively guarantees that the obligor is paying his/her obligation BEFORE using the paycheck to meet household expenses. It gives the payment of the support debt dominance.

The first way to enforce, therefore, is to request the Court enter an IWO. Bear in mind, however, that this solution works best for spouses who are employed by third parties. It is not impossible for self-employed obligors, but they do present a challenge.

A second option – used for situations where you are owed back support- is contempt. This involves filing a motion for contempt with the Court that issued the judgment, which, in turn, alerts the judge that the obligor spouse is not doing what he/she was ordered to do and that they owe you money.

A motion for contempt will trigger a hearing wherein the judge will decide if there was a reasonable excuse for non-payment and will assess the contemnor’s ability to pay. Depending upon the circumstances, the contemnor might be ordered to pay a partial or whole lump sum to bring the obligation current, or be assessed an arrearage payment in monthly installments. They may or may not be given the opportunity for a temporary reduction, or for at least some grace period in getting off their feet while the arrearage accrues. They might, in fact, be ordered to jail. The result will depend entirely upon the circumstances.

While you can always attempt to go these processes alone and there are online forms and pro se case managers to help you, it is advisable to seek the assistance of an attorney, since often the matter of enforcement is nuanced and will depend upon several issues. The basic concept is that if you are entitled, until and unless the Court excuses the obligor spouse, you have the right to pursue enforcement. Whether or not that enforcement is ultimately successful, however, will depend upon the details of your case.

Contact Rechel & Associates if you are having trouble receiving your Alimony payments.

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