What Can I Do if My Ex Owes Me Alimony?
Many people, especially many obligors (people who pay support), think spousal support and child support are in separate categories. They almost view spousal support as optional. But under Florida law, these obligations have the same legal status. So, the same enforcement avenues, including contempt, are usually available for both these payments.
Typically, obligees (people who receive support) have the exclusive right to enforce these orders in court. A Maitland family attorney can go over all your legal options.
Generally, most judges will not sanction enforcement action unless the obligor is seriously delinquent (i.e. more than ninety days) and the obligor has made no effort to address the situation.
So, the first step in a contempt action is usually a letter from an attorney. This letter puts the obligor on notice as to the delinquency and also explains that failing to pay alimony is just as bad as violating any other court order. So, if the case goes to court later, the obligor is without excuse.
On a related note, financial obligations and visitation rights are separate. Obligees cannot withhold visitation if the obligor owes any child or spousal support money. In fact, to avoid any possible grey area, it is a good idea not to even bring up delinquent support during visitation exchanges or during any discussion about child rearing matters.
Back to the blog. If the obligor refuses to make arrangements to erase the delinquency or fails to follow through on a promised repayment schedule, the obligee may file a contempt action in court.
Technically, every failure to make a payment is a separate charge of contempt. So, if the obligor is six months behind, s/he faces six contempt of court charges. This technicality gives a contempt motion an additional “shock and awe” factor which often helps facilitate a settlement.
A typical out-of-court support settlement is half of the delinquency upfront and a payment plan, which may include wage garnishment, for the rest. If the obligor does not settle, some collections options include:
- Wage Garnishment: Typically, Florida law allows obligees to withhold up to half of the obligor’s paycheck for current and delinquent spousal and child support. Unpaid reimbursement often falls into this category as well. Wage garnishment is the preferred contempt enforcement method, in most cases.
- Attention-Getting Devices: Sometimes, withholding the obligor’s pay may antagonize this individual and something tragic may happen. So, there are other options, such as property liens and drivers’ license suspension, which do not generate any revenue immediately, but they do put the matter on the obligor’s radar.
- Revenue-Generating Options: At the opposite end of the spectrum, devices like payment intercept may be available. These options may be desirable if the obligor is in line to receive a large inheritance or tax refund.
Most civil cases, including most contempt actions, settle out of court.
Order Clarification and Modification
At times, due to a prior attorney’s error or some other issue, the order is too vague to be enforced by contempt. So, it may be necessary to clarify that order so enforcement can proceed.
Additionally, if the obligor’s income has substantially changed since the prior order, modification may be in order. Modification effectively prevents obligors from arguing that the alimony award was excessive.
Rely on a Savvy Lawyer
A contempt of court action may be necessary to cure an alimony delinquency. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Maitland, contact The Troum Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Orange County and nearby jurisdictions.