Contempt Enforcement of Alimony
One of the most complex and frustrating aspects of divorce is the division of household finances. From property division to the division of debts, many divorcing couples find that dividing one household into two is an arduous task. Alimony, also referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance, was developed to allow the less financially stable party to avoid monetary peril through payments from the more financially stable party. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an ex-spouse to refuse to follow the judge’s orders for alimony payments. When this happens, you need a knowledgeable attorney on your side fighting for your rights. Contact Tangusso Law to learn more.
In contempt proceedings the burden of proof falls upon the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff must establish the following three basic elements:
1. There is a prior valid judgment or order:
The papers from the original action should contain the order or judgment that the Plaintiff is relying upon. In order to serve as the basis for contempt the original order or judgment must be sufficiently specific and unambiguous. The order or judgment must constitute a clear command to the Defendant regarding what is required to comply.
2. Defendant’s knowledge of the judgment or order;
The Plaintiff must establish that the Defendant had knowledge of the judgment or order which can be done by proving:
- that the Defendant was present at the original hearing, or
- that the Defendant at some point complied with the order or judgment, or
- that the Defendant signed an agreement or stipulation in which the judgment or order was incorporated.
3. Defendant’s willful disobedience of the judgment or order;
The Plaintiff must finally show that the Defendant willfully disobeyed the judgment or order. The simple failure to comply with the order or judgment does not equal willful disobedience. For support orders, if there is evidence that the Defendant had adequate income to make payments, knowledge of the court order and failed to make such payments the Plaintiff will be able to show the Defendant intentionally disregarded the court’s order.
Once the summons and Complaint have been served upon the Defendant, he or she may file an answer to the Complaint for Contempt, but is not required to do so. The Defendant might assert factors such as the loss of a job, inability to pay due to illness, that the judgment or order did not contain a clear and unequivocal command, or circumstances beyond his or her control.
If the Defendant is found by the Court to be in contempt, the Court has numerous options to explore. For example:
- If the Court finds that there has been a substantial change in circumstances, it can modify or terminate the original judgment or order. Additionally, the Court may modify arrears if the Defendant can prove a change of circumstances.
- In certain circumstances, the Court may order the Defendant committed to jail.
- The Court will also explore financial considerations. These can include entering a money judgment to be paid, awarding attorneys’ fees, or ordering an assignment or garnishment of wages.
The Legal Process Is Designed to Help You
When an ex-spouse refuses to honor his or her obligations, it is not uncommon for feelings of anger and frustration to appear. Many individuals will first consider taking matters into their own hands by refusing to uphold visitation rights until the spousal support obligations are met, for example. This, unfortunately, can lead to disastrous consequences. It is crucial that you work with an experienced Salem spousal support enforcement attorney for an efficient, legally binding resolution. The Court system has a contempt process designed to hold individuals responsible for their obligations and ensure you receive support.
If you have further questions or concerns regarding the enforcement of alimony, do not hesitate to contact us with questions. We have the experience and legal knowledge you need in order to get what you deserve.