My Ex Hasn’t Paid Their Maintenance, What Should I Do?

If your ex is not paying maintenance or child support, you have several different options that you can do. The first thing is to try and determine why is that not happening. Why aren’t they paying? Have they lost their job? Is there something else that’s occurred that’s preventing them from complying to their obligation to you? If possible, have a dialog with that individual regarding what’s going on, and is there something that can be done. If it is likely the non-payment is intentional, if it’s willful, that the person has the ability to pay but is choosing not to do so, then you can contempt action against that person. A contempt is a powerful tool that you can do where basically, you’re asking the court to find that individual in contempt for failure to comply with a court order.

I prefer to do remedial contempt proceedings, which enable you, if you prevail, to ask for an award for attorney’s fees, that’s very important. Essentially, there are two types of contempts, there are remedial contempts and there are contempts that are more criminal in nature, punitive contempts. I prefer remedial contempts because the burden of proof is lower with a remedial contempt. In other words, you have to show the person knew about the court order, had the ability to comply, and didn’t do so. With a punitive contempt, you’re using almost a criminal burden of proof, because sanctions for a punitive contempt can include imprisonment, so with a punitive contempt, you’re basically showing beyond a reasonable doubt that this person knew about the court order and didn’t comply.

Another way that you can collect unpaid maintenance and child support is to get a verified entry of a support judgment and take that and use it for basic collection actions like you were any other creditor. In other words, you can garnish bank accounts, you can file a lien against someone’s house, you can take other collection proceedings, you can seek to garnish someone’s wages at work. For example, if someone is under an order to pay you, a support order, and they’re refusing to comply, you can ask that a garnishment order be issued, and a mandatory income withholding order be granted by the court, that’s the fancy word for that, and have the money taken directly from that person’s paycheck, paid by the employer to you every month. That’s an excellent way to collect unpaid maintenance and child support.

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