What Should You Do if Your Ex-Spouse Refuses to Pay Alimony?

Alimony or spousal support is ordered in a divorce case to help the spouse who has a lower earning capacity to live a comfortable life and not become destitute after the divorce. The higher-earning spouse is typically ordered to pay alimony to the lower-earning spouse. However, a spouse obligated to pay alimony may choose to ignore the court order. So what can the other spouse do to enforce the alimony order? Read on for more insight.

Contempt of court

The first thing is to hire the legal services of a family lawyer to help you enforce the alimony ruling. One of the ways you can enforce an alimony order is to file a contempt of court lawsuit against your ex-partner.  In this type of lawsuit, you'll be asking the family court to find your ex-partner in contempt for failing to obey the alimony order. The burden of proof lies with the petitioner to show that the defendant is not following the court order. A bank statement can be used as evidence to show whether any funds have been deposited in the recent past. If the defendant is found guilty of contempt of court, they will be ordered to pay a particular sum of the alimony immediately or spend time behind bars.


With an alimony order in place, you can have a portion of your ex-partner's paycheck withheld every month. Through your family attorney, you can ask the family court incorporate an income withholding order as part of the contempt petition. Once a court ruling is issued, you will have to submit a court order of garnishment to the defendant's employer, with instructions to withhold some funds from each paycheck. Some states have specific regulations regarding the amount of income that should be garnished as well as which types of earnings that are excluded from garnishment, including Social Security benefits.

Other avenues to collect unpaid spousal support

Depending on the jurisdiction, the family court may order any of these efforts. For example, the defendant's driving licence can be suspended if alimony continues to go unremitted.  The defendant's bank account may also be frozen and garnished under specific circumstances. You can also file a lien against any property owned by the defaulter. Last but not least, the defaulter may also be barred from travelling overseas and their passports can be suspended until they offset the pending alimony amount.

If your ex-spouse is giving you a hard time by refusing to pay spousal support as directed by the court, contact a family lawyer and discuss ways to enforce the order.