There are several ways to approach enforcing your alimony order or agreement which are, in very large part, dependent upon why you are not receiving your alimony to begin with. If your spouse is able to pay but choosing not to, there are more severe penalties available for non-payment. If, on the other hand, your spouse has suffered a legitimate injury that keeps them from working or has recently lost employment and is making a concerted effort to find comparable employment, there are less severe methods of dealing with the problem. The choice, of course, is always yours, keeping in mind the goal is to obtain your alimony payments and keep them current from now on.The Process
To enforce any sort of court order, an action, an enforcement petition, has to be brought to do so. Failing to obey an alimony order is contempt of court exactly like failure to comply with any court order. Judges hate that.
In the action that you bring, you will need to ask for the types of relief you are seeking. It may be something as simple as garnishment of the payor’s wages because they have threatened to stop paying and you want to prevent that from happening. It may be as severe as incarceration because this is the third or fourth or fifth time the payor has failed to obey the court’s initial order and every order thereafter demanding payment. Or, most often, the situation is somewhere in between.Types of Relief Available to Enforce the Order
If your spouse is employed or has other income or assets, you can bring a court action to do one or more of the following:
Ask the court for an income deduction order so that the alimony is taken directly out of the payor’s paycheck. This can include payments to catch up on any amount the payor is behind. If the payor is self-employed, this method will be unsuccessful.
Ask the court to seize assets to bring payments current and protect against future failures to pay. Such things as bank accounts of all sorts can be seized, as well business income and even personal property can be seized and sold at auction to satisfy alimony payments.
Ask the court for a judgment for the amount due. This will impact the payor’s credit and allow collection methods available in the same way as for any other judgment.
Ask the court to set up a trust so it could be accessed in the event of any failure to pay occurs again in the future.
Ask for any other relief the court may find appropriate to effectuate ongoing payment of your alimony.
Ask the court to toss the payor in jail for ongoing failures to pay alimony ordered.
If the payor has no income and no assets to assets, you can still ask for any and all of the above, but you will have no assets to access immediately. The goal in these cases is to find the assets and income that someone is using and determine how those assets came to be in someone else’s name. The real point being, simply because someone has transferred assets out of their own name, works under the table or lives on a cash basis to avoid bank accounts, that does not mean that an action to enforce an alimony order should not be commenced or that it will not ultimately be successful.
If there are legitimate reasons for non-payment, such as a serious medical issue or sudden unemployment, there is nothing wrong with making some arrangements with the payor that can ultimately work to both of your advantages under the circumstances. Again, the goal is to get your alimony paid in the best way possible. Rather than litigation, there are times when an agreement, properly drafted to protect your rights while allowing the payor to stabilize, can be the best route to take.
If you need to discuss enforcing your alimony order or to prepare an alimony agreement, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen for a free initial consultation at 201-845-7400.