The subject of spousal support can be one of the most contentious issues in any divorce in Sacramento County. When the court issues its final order declaring the parties to be divorced and setting an amount and schedule for alimony payments, many people feel that the worst is behind them. Unhappily, the future does not always cooperate. Many ex-spouses fail to pay support to their former spouses. The failure to pay either child or spousal support can often be justified by a change in the financial situation of one or both parties, but in too many cases, the payor spouse simply chooses to disregard the court’s order.

Fortunately, the law in California provides several remedies when former spouses fail to satisfy their support obligations. The California Department of Child Support Services can provide significant assistance in finding the ex-spouse and collecting delinquent child support, but the agency may not be able to help collect delinquent spousal support. In those cases the ex-spouse who is entitled to the support payments must go to court to enforce the original judgment.

If the court grants a motion to enforce the original judgment and finds that payments have been wrongfully withheld, it can hold the defaulting ex-spouse in contempt of court. In such cases, the defaulting ex-spouse will be given a fixed amount of time to cure all delinquencies before imposing more serious penalties, such as a fine or jail time.

Obtaining an order finding the payor ex-spouse in default may be only the first step. Additional court proceedings may be required to obtain and enforce a lien on the defaulting spouse’s property, instituting garnishment proceedings 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.