Alimony Family Law

What If A Spouse Refuses To Pay Alimony?

What If A Spouse Refuses To Pay Alimony
Written by Francis King

Here’s the information you need to know if your spouse refuses to pay alimony and how to enforce it…

The Enforcement Procedure You Need To Take…

Any type of alimony ordered by a court is enforceable by that court. Enforcement begins with the receiving spouse filing a motion with the family court that issued the original order. Some states require a motion to enforce; others require a motion for contempt. Either way, the options available to the court for enforcement of alimony orders are fairly uniform. Once the motion is filed, it must be served on the delinquent spouse, who then has a certain number of days to file a response. After the time for filing a response has passed, the enforcing spouse contacts the family court and requests a hearing date.

The Enforcement Options That The Court Has At Their Disposal…

Courts have several enforcement options available to them. Courts may choose to order the paying spouse to pay all past due support payments and become current; order the arrears to be paid with an additional monthly amount; order interest on the total arrears amount; order the sale of property belonging to the delinquent spouse to satisfy arrears; make the delinquent spouse pay attorney’s fees and costs associated with the enforcement action; order both the regular and arrears monthly payments to be automatically deducted from the delinquent spouse’s paycheck through an income deduction order; and even order the arrest of the delinquent spouse for contempt of court.

Modification Of An Alimony Order…

Either former spouse can go back to court and request a modification of alimony if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original order was entered. States differ only slightly as to what constitutes a substantial change. Generally, job loss or a serious illness that eliminates the payor’s ability to earn a living are both substantial changes that might convince a court to lower the monthly payment. Some spouses can even agree on a modification if it means the payor can continue to pay part of the original amount rather than stopping payments altogether or relying on the court to craft a modification that neither party may like.

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About the author

Francis King

Mr. King is a member of the Nashville Bar Association, and serves on its Circuit and Chancery Court , Domestic Relations and General Sessions Court Committees. In addition to Tennessee, Mr. King is admitted to practice law in New York and Massachusetts, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the United States District Courts for the Middle District of Tennessee and the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.