What to Do When Your Ex Stops Paying Court-Ordered Spousal Support
If you were awarded spousal support (also called alimony or maintenance) in your Minnesota divorce, receiving those court-ordered payments from your former spouse is crucial. Spousal support can provide much-needed income as you get back on your feet financially after a divorce. But what happens if your ex-spouse stops making those court-ordered spousal support payments?
You have legal options to compel your former spouse to pay what they owe in back and current spousal support. Working with an experienced Minnesota family law attorney can help ensure you take the proper legal action to enforce the spousal support order and collect the payments you’re entitled to.
Understanding Court-Ordered Spousal Support in Minnesota
In Minnesota, a judge may order one spouse to pay spousal maintenance to the other spouse as part of a divorce.
The court determines the amount and duration of spousal support based on several factors, including:
- Length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s income, education, and earning capacity
- Standard of living established during the marriage
- Age and health of each spouse
- Contributions each spouse made to the marriage
- Resources available to each spouse
Spousal support is often ordered when there is a large discrepancy between the spouses’ incomes and earning capacities. The goal is to maintain the financially disadvantaged spouse’s standard of living after divorce.
Spousal support orders specify the payment amount and schedule, such as monthly installments due on a certain date. The order makes the paying spouse legally obligated to pay the spousal support on time.
What Happens If Your Former Spouse Stops Paying Court-Ordered Support?
When your ex-spouse fails to make spousal support payments, you have legal recourse to compel them to pay what is owed. In Minnesota, a spousal support order is enforced like any other court judgment. The court takes violations of its orders seriously.
If you and your ex-spouse entered an agreement for spousal maintenance as part of your divorce, that agreement becomes a court order when incorporated into your divorce decree. Your former spouse must adhere to the spousal support order or face penalties.
It’s important to take prompt legal action at the first sign your ex-spouse intends to skirt their support obligations. Delaying enforcement efforts can make it harder to compel payment.
What are the Spousal Support Payment Enforcement Options in Minnesota?
If your former spouse falls behind on spousal support payments or stops paying entirely, here are some steps a Minnesota family law attorney can take:
File a Motion for Contempt
When your ex-spouse defies a court order, your attorney can file a contempt motion. At a hearing, your ex must explain to the judge why they violated the spousal support order.
If the court finds your spouse in contempt, penalties can include:
- Order to pay you the past-due amount in a lump sum
- Order to pay fines, attorney’s fees, and other costs
- Jail time until your ex pays the amount owed
- Community service
The goal is to compel your former spouse to pay the spousal support they owe. Jail time is rare but can incentivize a reluctant ex to pay.
Request Income Withholding
If your ex-spouse’s spousal support payments are often late or sporadic, your divorce lawyer can ask the court to issue an income withholding order. This requires your ex’s employer to withdraw the spousal support amount from their paycheck and send it to you or the court right away.
Income withholding helps ensure you receive spousal support on time. In Minnesota, income withholding is mandatory for all new child support orders and can be requested for spousal maintenance collection, too.
Place Liens Against Assets
The court can put liens against your ex-spouse’s assets, like financial accounts, real estate, vehicles, and other property. If they still refuse to pay spousal support, those assets could be seized and sold to pay off the debt owed to you.
Request Driver’s License Suspension
In Minnesota, the court can suspend your ex’s driver’s license if they are at least 3 months behind on spousal support payments. Having a suspended license can motivate them to get caught up.
Intercept Tax Refunds
You can request the court intercept your ex’s state tax refund to pay off spousal support arrears. The state will take what is owed directly from their refund before disbursing the remainder to your former spouse.
Deny Passport Renewal
If your ex-spouse owes $2,500 or more in past-due support, the court can deny passport renewal until the debt is paid off. This prevents them from leaving the country to avoid payment.
Report Nonpayment to Credit Bureaus
Having a family law attorney report your ex’s lack of spousal support payment to credit bureaus can negatively impact their credit score and serve as an incentive to pay.
Tips for Collecting Past-Due Spousal Support in Minnesota
If your former spouse accumulates a significant arrearage in spousal support payments, collecting that money can be challenging.
Here are some tips:
- Document any nonpayment – Keep detailed records of your ex’s payment history, including dates, amounts owed, amounts paid, and communication efforts. This documentation will help your attorney.
- Stay in touch with your ex – Keep the lines of communication open about spousal support, even if your relationship is strained. Your ex may be willing to work with you.
- Be proactive – At the first sign, your ex may stop paying. Contact your family law attorney to explore options. Acting quickly increases the chances of payment.
- Consider negotiation – Your attorney may be able to negotiate a lump sum settlement or payment plan if your ex truly cannot afford the full amount in arrears. Getting something is better than nothing.
- Know what assets are available – Find out if your ex has assets, income sources, or property that could be used to recover what you’re owed. This allows your lawyer to target collection accordingly.
- Seek professional help – Work with an experienced family law attorney to pursue all legal avenues for collecting past-due spousal support. They know how to build a strong case for contempt charges, asset seizures, and other enforcement actions.
Relying on spousal support to meet your monthly expenses can be stressful, even when payments are on time. It becomes exponentially more stressful when your ex starts missing payments or stops paying entirely.
At Martine Law, our compassionate family law team believes no one should go through a divorce or battle over spousal support alone. We help clients face these challenges with strength and confidence. Our attorneys focus on achieving favorable outcomes while minimizing added stress for you.
If you need help enforcing a spousal support order or collecting unpaid alimony in Minnesota, contact us today to schedule a case review.