If you’re owed unpaid alimony, it’s essential to understand your legal rights and the steps you can take to recover the payments.
If your spouse fails to pay the agreed-upon amount of alimony, several legal options are available, including wage garnishment, writ of execution, and contempt of court.
If you are owed alimony, you have the right to seek enforcement of the divorce or separation agreement that the court ordered.
Your divorce decree should specify the amount and duration of alimony payments. If the paying party is not making the required payments, you can take legal action to enforce the agreement.
Legal Options for Collecting Unpaid Alimony
If your spouse fails to pay the agreed-upon amount of alimony, several legal options are available. These options include:
1. Contempt of Court
One option for collecting unpaid alimony is to file a motion for contempt of court. Contempt of court refers to a situation where a person refuses to follow an order of the court. This involves proving that your spouse can pay the alimony but is choosing not to do so.
Filing a motion for contempt of court for unpaid alimony involves the following steps:
- Review the divorce decree or separation agreement. Review the divorce decree to determine the specific provisions for alimony and whether the other party has violated any of these provisions.
- Obtain the necessary forms and documents. This may include a motion for contempt of court and an affidavit, a written statement made under oath.
- Complete the forms and documents. In the motion for contempt of court, you should clearly state the specific provision of the divorce decree or separation agreement that the other party has violated and how they have violated it. In the affidavit, you should provide evidence to support your allegations of non-payment.
- File the forms and documents with the court. This is usually done at the same court where your divorce was granted or where the separation agreement was approved.
- Serve the other party with the motion and other documents. This means you must provide the other party with a copy of the forms and documents you filed with the court. The other party must be allowed to respond to your allegations.
- Attend the hearing. If your motion is granted, the court will set a hearing date. You should attend the hearing and be prepared to present evidence supporting your motion for contempt.
If the judge finds your spouse in contempt of court, they will be ordered to pay the overdue alimony, pay a fine, or even serve time in jail.
2. Wage Garnishment
Another option for collecting unpaid alimony is wage garnishment. Garnishment is a court-ordered process for collection on a judgment by taking money directly from a person’s wages. This involves having a portion of your spouse’s wages automatically withheld from their paycheck and paid directly to you.
To get a garnishment for unpaid alimony, you need to follow these steps:
- File a motion for contempt of court. This is a legal process where you ask the court to enforce the terms of the divorce decree or separation agreement regarding alimony.
- Obtain a court order. If the court determines that the other party is in contempt for failing to pay alimony, the court will issue a court order.
- File for a wage or bank garnishment. Once you have a court order, you can file for a wage garnishment. This is a legal process where a portion of the other party’s wages is withheld from their pay and sent to you to satisfy the outstanding alimony debt.
- Serve the garnishment papers. The wage garnishment papers must be served on your ex-spouse’s employer or bank. This notifies the employer that a portion of the other party’s wages must be withheld and sent to you to satisfy the outstanding alimony debt. If the garnishment is served on the bank, the bank will withdraw money from your ex’s account and pay that to the court.
- Monitor the garnishment. Once the wage garnishment is in place, it is important to monitor the payments and ensure that the employer complies with the court order. The bank or employer will pay the garnishment to the court. The court will then issue you a check for the amount of the funds collected.
3. Writ of Execution
A writ of execution is a legal process that allows you to enforce a court order for the payment of unpaid alimony. A writ of execution is a court order that directs law enforcement to take action in an attempt to satisfy a judgment. The writ will allow the sheriff to take possession of a person’s property and sell it at a sheriff’s sale (public auction) to pay off a judgment.
To file a writ of execution for unpaid alimony, you should follow these steps:
- File a motion to enforce the court order. If the other party has failed to pay the alimony as ordered by the court, you can file a motion to enforce the court order with the court. This motion will request the court to take action to enforce the court order, such as issuing a writ of execution.
- Obtain a writ of execution. If the court grants your motion to enforce the court order, the court will issue a writ of execution. A writ of execution is a court order directing a sheriff or other authorized officer to seize the property of the person who owes the alimony and sell it to pay the debt.
- Serve the writ of execution. The writ of execution must be served on the person who owes the alimony. This notifies them that the sheriff or other authorized officer will seize their property and sell it to pay the debt.
- Execute the writ. The sheriff or other authorized officer will then execute the writ of execution by seizing the property of the person who owes the alimony and selling it to pay the debt.
FAQs About Unpaid Alimony
Can I collect unpaid alimony if my ex-spouse dies?
Generally, if your ex-spouse dies and you’re owed past-due alimony, you are still allowed to collect that amount from your ex-spouse’s estate.
To collect past-due alimony from your ex-spouse’s estate, you’ll need to follow these steps to file a claim:
- Obtain a copy of the will or letters of administration: You’ll need to determine who the executor of the estate is and obtain a copy of the will or letters of administration.
- File a claim with the probate court: You’ll need to file a claim with the probate court and provide evidence of past-due alimony, such as a copy of the divorce decree or the alimony agreement.
- Attend the hearing: If the executor contests your claim, you’ll need to attend a hearing where you’ll need to present evidence and argue why you’re entitled to the past-due alimony.
- Collect the award: If your claim is approved, you’ll be able to collect the award from the estate.
What Happens to Alimony if Your Ex-Spouse Loses Job?
Losing their job may impact your ex-spouse’s ability to make alimony payments, but it does not stop the obligation to pay alimony.
If your ex-spouse loses their job and cannot make their alimony payments, there are a few options available. Here’s what typically happens in such a situation:
- Modification of alimony: If your ex-spouse’s loss of income is permanent, they may be able to request a modification of the alimony agreement to reflect their new financial situation. This will require a court order and can only be done if there is a provision in the divorce decree that allows for modification of alimony.
- Temporary suspension of alimony: If your ex-spouse’s loss of income is temporary, they may be able to request a temporary suspension of alimony until they regain employment.
- Enforcing the agreement: If your ex-spouse is unwilling or unable to make their alimony payments, you may need to seek the court’s assistance to enforce the agreement. This could include wage garnishment, seizure of assets, or other enforcement actions.
Regardless of the situation, it’s essential to communicate with your ex-spouse and try to reach an agreement that works for both of you.
If you’re unable to reach an agreement, you may need to seek the assistance of a mediator or an attorney to help you resolve the issue.