A St. Augustine divorce attorney can likely recount many stories about why spouses fall behind on alimony. Sometimes it is due to an unexpected job loss and difficulty finding a new job. In other cases, the paying spouse may suffer from medical conditions that affect his or her ability to work. However, sometimes a paying spouse simply resents having to pay support, is bitter or wants to get back at an ex by stopping expected support. Fortunately, the recipient spouse has a number of remedies to help ensure that he or she receives court-ordered spousal support.
The first thing that a St. Augustine divorce attorney will want to do in a case of this nature is to determine why the spouse has stopped paying support. He or she will want to uncover whether the spouse involuntarily lost a job or experienced a reduction in income due to illness or injury. If the paying spouse is unable to make support payments, the spouses may be able to work out an agreement that reduces the amount of payments or suspends them for a certain period of time. A St. Augustine divorce attorney can help draft an agreement to this effect and ensure that the recipient spouse’s legal interests are fully protected. However, if it is determined that the paying spouse simply wants to avoid his or her obligation to pay spousal support, the recipient spouse will likely need to pursue a remedy provided by the court.
If there is a court-ordered spousal support order, the recipient spouse can file a petition with the court asking it to force the paying spouse to pay off the amount that he or she is behind on support. Courts do not like it when parties deliberately disobey their orders. Courts have much discretion when it comes to punishing individuals for not obeying their orders.
Some court remedies include:
The recipient spouse may file a motion for contempt against the paying spouse. The court may hear testimony and analyze evidence to determine if the paying spouse has intentionally disobeyed the court order. If the court finds that he or she did, the spouse may be ordered to pay off the back-due support within a specific period of time. The court may impose an additional fine. If the spouse still refuses to honor his or her obligation, the court may have the paying spouse jailed.
Confiscation of Funds
Another remedy that the court has is to confiscate funds from the spouse’s financial estate such as rents and profits derived from real estate that he or she owns. The court can have these amounts taken and applied toward the spousal support obligation if it determines such action is reasonable and just.
An income withholding order is often sent to a paying spouse’s employer. This order requires the employer to withhold the amount of spousal support and forward it to the recipient spouse. Such an order is often effective because it removes the paying spouse’s ability to simply keep these funds for himself or herself rather than pay spousal support. However, the order is only effective while the spouse is employed. Likewise, a withholding order does not work in cases in which the paying spouse is self-employed.
If the original spousal support order did not include an income withholding order, the recipient spouse can request that such an order be imposed. While this will not help regain the payments that were not received, it can help ensure that future payments are received. If the paying spouse is self-employed, the recipient spouse can ask the court to order the paying spouse to establish a trust that will provide access to funds to the recipient spouse if payments are not made in a timely manner.
Order to Find Work
If the paying spouse is unemployed, the recipient spouse can ask the court to order the spouse to find work. Additionally, the recipient spouse can ask the judge to impute income for the spouse if he or she is willfully unemployed. This requires the court to make an assessment of how much money the paying spouse would be earning if he or she had a job based on the individual’s earning capacity, including his or her education, work history and skills. The amount of spousal support is then based off of the imputed income.
Writ of Execution
Another potential remedy is for the court to issue a writ of execution against assets owned by the paying spouse, such as checking accounts, CDs and other financial assets.
If a recipient's spouse is not receiving spousal support that was ordered by the court, he or she may need legal assistance. Contact a St. Augustine divorce attorney from Canan Law by calling (904) 849-2266 to set up a confidential consultation.