When you and your spouse divorced, the Court ruled that you were obligated to pay spousal maintenance to your former spouse in the form of periodic payments. While you respected the ruling at the time, you’ve been making these monthly payments for the past two or three years, and you can’t help but wonder what would happen if you didn’t pay it.
That’s a great question, and the short answer is that nothing good can come from purposely defying a court order.
While paying spousal maintenance, sometimes colloquially referred to as alimony, to your former spouse may seem unfair, there is typically a logical reason for such a ruling. The Court’s decision to grant it was likely based on various factors, including but not limited to your former spouse’s financial needs when your marriage ended. If you are ordered to pay all these years later, you should continue doing so. Choosing nonpayment as an option can lead to severe legal consequences.
Examples of what can happen if you don’t pay spousal maintenance
- You could be held in contempt of court
- The Court could assess fines, court costs, and interest payments
- You could suffer a suspension of licenses (ex: driver’s license)
- Potential jail time
What if I can’t pay spousal maintenance or our circumstances have changed?
Perhaps you lost your job, switched jobs, or received a surprise pay cut. Maybe you or another family member suffered a medical emergency or another unforeseen circumstance that’s legitimately preventing you from making your payments on time or at all. Maybe your former spouse has remarried. In certain circumstances, the obligation to pay spousal maintenance can be terminated. However, there is a difference in having the Court terminate such an obligation and simply stopping payment on your own.
If your circumstances have changed, it’s always good to consult with an attorney to review your options.
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