When a divorce becomes finalized, it becomes legally enforceable, which means that both spouses must abide by its terms until they either expire or are modified in the future. But what happens when one parent decides to skirt or even blatantly disregard their responsibility? Because a divorce is legally enforceable, the other spouse may be able to hold them responsible by utilizing an enforcement action. Numerous enforcement options can be used, and we’ll discuss them in more detail here.
Try to Solve It Yourself
When you wish to enforce your child support order and get the courts involved, you’ll have to bring your case to the court, which will involve petitioning, scheduling a hearing and plenty of other steps. These can be expensive and time-consuming, taking as much as a month in order to be resolved. If you believe the violation of the order was an honest mistake or a result of unforeseen circumstances, you may wish to simply ask the other spouse about the situation. They may have simply forgotten the deadline or needed a sudden car repair and couldn’t make the payment on time. If you don’t receive an answer, you may want to consider having your attorney write them (or their attorney) a letter informing the situation and demanding they bring their payments up to date. While you may willing to be understanding in an emergency or time of hardship for the other spouse, you shouldn’t be too lenient. For some people, mercy in one instance may be grounds to ask for a reduced payment again later and more frequently until the reduced amount suddenly becomes the new norm. Be sure to cut off this behavior before it can become a problem.
Motion To Enforce A Court Order
If a letter does not work and you receive a refusal or no response from the other spouse, then you should get the courts involved. This means you and your attorney will need to file a motion to enforce a court order, which is essentially a written petition for the courts to get involved in your issue. An enforcement motion could result in the delinquent spouse being held in contempt of court. This is a serious offense that could have criminal repercussions depending on your circumstances, including jail time for serious cases. In most cases, the court will simply scold the delinquent spouse and issue them a fine as well as an order to bring their payments up to date. However, if this order is not followed, there are some even more serious options on the table that either the court or the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) of the Alabama Department of Human Services can use. These options can include:
- Wage deductions and garnishments: These orders automatically take child support payments from a paying spouse’s earnings directly from their employer.
- Credit bureau reporting: The courts or CSED can choose to report your delinquency on child support payments to credit reporting bureaus, which can have a significant harm on your credit score and lead to immense financial repercussions in the future.
- Tax refund intercepts: Looking forward to getting your tax refund each spring? If you’re delinquent on your child support, you better not get your hopes up. The courts could potentially seize your tax refund for the year and apply it toward any outstanding child support payments you have not made.
- License suspension and revocation: The courts could potentially take away any operational, professional, or even sporting and recreation licenses for spouses who don’t pay their alimony. This can include a general driver’s license, forcing them to rely on public transportation until they have caught up on their payments.
- Passport restrictions: If a paying spouse owes more than $5,000 in child support, they could have their passport temporarily revoked, preventing them from leaving the country. This could also mean an application for a passport will be denied if the paying spouse has recently applied for one.
- Property liens: A lien is essentially a hold that someone can on your property, forcing you to pay any outstanding balances before you can sell or refinance it. When you sell property with a lien on it, the lienholder (in this case the court system) will receive the proceeds for the sale, deduct the amount you owe and then leave you any remaining proceeds.
Taking away a violating spouse’s rights, including visitation and parenting time, is not an option, so even if your spouse is grossly delinquent on their payments, continue to allow them to have their visitation time. Otherwise, you too could be found in contempt of court and face potential penalties. It’s also important to note that these are only options for child support orders, and orders for alimony payments may be enforced differently. You should discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible if the paying spouse in your divorce has become delinquent on their alimony payments.