In many contested divorce cases the judge will grant temporary
spousal support and order payment of household bills and other living expenses. These orders are usually the result of a motion to the court asking for support while the divorce case is pending. The motion is usually brought because the spouse with the ability to pay is refusing to pay or is paying so little that the other spouse cannot manage or is reduced to begging for a weekly allowance. In some cases the obligation to pay will be the result of an agreement (stipulation) between the two spouses and then when signed by the judge the stipulation is "So Ordered" and becomes a court order.
Every single matrimonial lawyer has cases in which they represent the client entitled to receive court ordered support or the client who is directed to pay support. While I would be guessing to tell you the percentage of spouses that do not comply with the temporary orders of support, I can without hesitation state that it is far too many. One of the discussions clients have great difficulty with is explaining to a client why they must pay the amount in the order even though they do not believe they can afford to do so; or explaining to a client the time and cost involved in enforcing the order that is not being followed.
When temporary child support, maintenance or house and living expense bills are not being paid there are a few ways in which I can try to make the other party pay and comply with the court order. Each way takes a certain amount of time and there is a cost to doing so, but if it succeeds the client will be receiving support.
If the non-paying spouse is employed a wage deduction order can be issued once certain criteria are met. The attorney prepares an income execution, serves it on the spouse and unless an objection is made through a special court proceeding, the income execution is served on the employer and the wage garnishment begins.
If the non-paying spouse has assets, a money judgment can be obtained and assets may be forfeited to pay the support arrears. In some cases, the court may even direct that a fund be set-up for the ongoing payment of support.
If the non-paying spouse is self-employed, without assets to seize, usually a contempt application will be necessary. The contempt application asks the judge to determine that there has been a violation of a court order and that the violation is willful. If the court holds the person in contempt and finds that the violation was willful the person will be given a chance to immediately pay what is owed or may be sent to jail and fined for not complying with the court order.
If you find yourself in the situation of having to enforce a support order or defend yourself against a support order, it is important that you obtain good and experienced legal advice from a matrimonial attorney. These proceedings can be complicated and the advice of an experienced attorney is critical. Please call my office for your free consultation so that I can help with you my over 30 years of experience as an attorney of which the last 22 years have been exclusively devoted to matrimonial law.