Legal Options When the Alimony Payments Stop
Spousal support, or alimony, is a topic that gets a lot of bad press because of the general assumption that this financial assistance is merely an attempt to gouge an ex-spouse out of more money. However, alimony awards are rarely permanent, and more commonly serve to give an ex-spouse sufficient time to acquire the means for self-support. Alternatively, an ex-spouse’s ability to work may be affected by a child with special needs. Thus, this money represents a real financial need and not blatant greed. If these payments stop coming, the recipient can quickly find him/herself in dire financial straits. Consequently, taking quick action to enforce compliance with an alimony award is necessary to prevent the accumulation of a number of delinquent payments. However, a party seeking to avoid paying alimony can sometimes go to great lengths to sidestep this obligation, including transferring money and assets to a new spouse or another family member so he/she can argue the means to pay is no longer present. The ex-wife of a prominent Fort Lauderdale attorney is facing this situation as she tries to collect more than $600,000 in overdue alimony. The woman recently filed a lawsuit against her ex-husband’s new wife, claiming he transferred the bulk of his assets to his new wife to avoid his obligation to pay alimony. Alimony can be a touchy subject, but it is important to actively enforce the right to receive it. An overview of the options a person has to enforce an alimony award will follow below.
Alimony Obligation Generally
Alimony is a financial obligation just like any other – a mortgage owed to a bank or an outstanding balance owed to a credit card company, for example. Consequently, former spouses seeking delinquent alimony are treated as creditors for legal purposes, and gain all the rights a creditor would have to obtain satisfaction of a debt. Enforcing an alimony award requires the use of the legal process – specifically, asking a court to take action to force compliance. As a result, the services of an experienced family law attorney are needed to ensure one utilizes all available legal options to collect the overdue amount. Often, the delinquent party will claim he/she no longer has the ability to pay, a legal requirement of an alimony obligation. But, an experienced attorney will know how to gather evidence of hidden income, fraudulent transfers and/or voluntary job loss through the use of private investigators and statements from witnesses to prove the ex-spouse is capable of complying with the court order.
Methods of Enforcement
The methods for collection of overdue alimony are similar to those used for the non-payment of child support. Typically, the first step in enforcing an alimony award is to file a petition with the family court, requesting the judge take steps to enforce the earlier order and/or hold the party in contempt if the non-payment appears to be willful. The following are some of the options for collection a court can order:
- Money Judgment – The first order needed by a court for enforcement that states how much an ex-spouse owes, and entitles the following specific methods of enforcement.
- Writ of Execution – Permits the seizure of certain property owned by the delinquent party, which is sold, and the proceeds given to the party entitled to alimony. Note that a person’s home is exempt from this measure.
- Writ of Garnishment – Authorizes the deduction of alimony payments directly from the delinquent spouse’s earnings. This enforcement option is most useful when a party does not have assets to seize, and can be set as continuing so that payments can be made periodically.
Not receiving the alimony you rely on to cover the expenses of daily living is a situation that calls for swift action. You need a dedicated and responsive family law attorney to pursue your right to payment to the fullest extent permitted. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understands how essential this support is for some individuals, and offers a free initial consultation to review your situation. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+