What To Do If My Spouse Stopped Paying Alimony

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Alimony is a legally binding, court-ordered monetary agreement, where one spouse is to help financially support the other. Alimony is often paid when there is a large difference between earnings for each spouse, and one cannot afford to support themselves without the other. The couple can agree on alimony conditions without court intervention, if they are amicable enough to negotiate together. If they cannot find an arrangement and amount that works for them, a family court judge will have to determine the alimony terms instead. Unfortunately, there may come a time where the paying spouse has simply stopped sending alimony entirely, leaving the receiving spouse unsure of how to collect. 

Q: Why has my spouse stopped paying?

A: A spouse may have halted alimony payments for several reasons. Perhaps he or she endured an emergency situation and fell ill or became injured. It is also possible your spouse has recently lost a job or was demoted, and just doesn’t have the extra funds to pay. It may be a good idea to talk with your spouse if you have a cordial relationship, to see if you can work out a temporary agreement until he or she gets through this troublesome period. If your spouse isn’t paying simply because he or she wants to seek revenge or resist the process, it may be time to consult with a divorce attorney. 

Q: Could my spouse face charges for contempt of court?

A: Yes, a spouse who halts paying alimony could face civil or criminal charges, and be at risk of serving a jail sentence. Contempt of court means that the spouse has violated the alimony court order imposed by the judge. The specific repercussions for not paying alimony depends on the state and jurisdiction. In some areas, the spouse may receive a financial penalty and lose driver’s license. For other jurisdictions, the spouse may come to realize there is a warrant for their arrest due to lack of payments.

Q: Does the court track alimony payments?

A: In general, the court does keep track of whether alimony payments have been made, and may take action if they observe payments are late or not in the full amount. However, the receiving spouse may not want to wait until the court notices, and can still file a request for action. It is recommended that receiving spouses who have not had consistent payments, consult with a lawyer who is knowledgeable in family law cases for help. A legal professional can help advise you on what steps to take based on your alimony arrangement. 

Q: May the court order that alimony is collected from my spouse’s paychecks?

A: Yes, if a spouse has halted paying alimony, the court may require that an employer takes a portion of earnings out of paychecks, which is then sent straight to the receiving spouse. A percentage or amount is taken out before the paying spouse even gets his or her paycheck. This helps ensure the spouse in need gets their alimony payments on-time and in the correct amount.