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What to Do if Your Ex Doesn’t Pay Maintenance?

As part of your divorce, you might be awarded maintenance payments from your ex. But what happens if your ex fails to meet their maintenance obligations?

Before taking any drastic legal action, you should work with your attorney to determine why your ex is not making these payments. While it is possible they are simply refusing to pay out of spite, it could be they have lost their job, saw a reduction in income or experienced some other recent financial hardship that is making it difficult or impossible for them to stay on top of all of their financial responsibilities.

In the latter situation, you might work out an arrangement with your spouse that will temporarily reduce or suspend alimony until they’re able to restore their earning capacity; just make it clear that you will go to court if the payments do not start back up again.

But if it’s a case of the spouse simply refusing to pay, then you will want to file a motion in court to compel your spouse to make overdue payments and follow future payment instructions, or else face contempt of court or other consequences.

In Order to prevail on a downward modification of maintenance, you have to demonstrate what is referred to as extreme hardship.  This is a difficult standard. Often times, a judge may temporarily reduce the payment only to take on the accumulated arrears to the end of the obligation as maintenance awards are rarely modified.

Potential consequences for failure to pay

Courts have a variety of methods they can use to compel noncompliant spouses to make their maintenance payments. Examples include:

  • Contempt: A failure to abide by maintenance arrangements could land your ex in contempt of court, which will include being forced to pay overdue support plus additional fines. Continued disobedience can result in jail time up to 6 months.
  • Withholding wages: If a spouse fails to pay maintenance, the court may order wage withholding which is done by what is known as an income execution and/or an income deduction order in which a portion of income would automatically be taken out to pay maintenance.
  • Writ of execution: Courts can award wronged parties a portion of their spouse’s assets.
  • Judgment and interest: You can seek a judgment from the court for the total amount of money owed plus interest, and reimbursement for attorney’s fees incurred.

If you are the recipient of child support, you can ask that the payment of maintenance be paid through your local child support collection unit.

For more information, contact an experienced divorce attorney at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia.