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Enforcing an order for spousal support in California

Many divorcing couples in California view the entry of the final decree as the end of the anger and frustration that infects many divorce proceedings. Unfortunately, some couples continue to engage in angry and manipulative behavior long after the marriage is officially over. One of the most common actions is the failure of the party charged with paying spousal support to make those payments on time and in the proper amount. Sometimes, the failure to pay support can be justified by the payor spouse's financial situation, but, in others, the failure to pay support reflects nothing more than the decision of the payor spouse to flout the order of the court.

What can be done in such cases? Generally, the party entitled to receive spousal support payments must ask the court for an order enforcing the obligation to pay alimony. If the court agrees that payment of support has been wrongfully withheld, it will enter an order holding the defaulting spouse in contempt of court. The order will ordinarily give the defaulting spouse a specific amount of time to cure any default before facing more serious sanctions, such as a fine or jail time.

The court may also grant the receiving spouse an interest in the property of the defaulting spouse as follows: the earnings, income or accumulations of the defaulting spouse that would have been community property but for the couple's separation, any community property, any quasi-community property and the separate property of the defaulting spouse.

Obtaining an order directing the defaulting spouse to cure any default in support payments may be only the first step. Further court proceedings may be necessary to obtain a lien on the defaulting spouse's property, instituting a garnishment proceeding to seize wages or foreclosing a lien on real property. Anyone who is having difficulty collecting support payments from a former spouse may wish to consult a knowledgeable divorce lawyer for advice on the various proceedings that can be used to compel payment.

Source: FindLaw, "California Code, Family Code - FAM ยง 4338," accessed on Jan. 1, 2018

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