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What Is the Punishment For Not Paying Alimony?

Family court judges determine alimony based on a number of factors, and in some instances the person who has to pay this support may not agree with how the final figure was calculated.

Unlike child support, in which judges must follow a rigid set of guidelines, alimony laws are much more liberal, giving judges wide discretion in how to determine the amount a spouse will have to pay.

A family judge typically orders two types of alimony: modifiable and non-modifiable.


If you are paying modifiable alimony, it means that you can petition the court to lower the alimony amount if you experience a significant change in your circumstances.

However, if you are ordered to pay non-modifiable alimony, you cannot change the amount and in some instances, that causes people to stop paying alimony altogether.

But doing so, can have some significant consequences.

Contempt of Court Is One Consequence of Not Paying Alimony 

If you fail to make several alimony payments, your ex-spouse can petition a judge to serve you with a contempt of court order. This means that you have violated a court order and must appear before a judge to explain why you are not paying the alimony.

Unless you can make a credible argument as to why you aren’t paying the alimony, the judge will order you to resume making the payments (including all past payments) or face additional fines and a possible stint in jail.

Wage Garnishment Is Another Consequence of Not Paying Alimony 

In some states, a family judge has the power to order income withholding – also known as wage garnishment – in which the alimony payments are directly taken from the paycheck of the person who owes the alimony.

In fact, some judges will automatically include an income withholding provision when they first award alimony, typically because the spouse who will receive the alimony has convinced the court that the spouse who pays the alimony may not comply with the order.

The drawback with wage garnishment, however, is that it won’t work on a spouse who is self-employed, so in those instances, the person paying alimony may be ordered to establish a trust account from which the alimony payment is deducted each month.

Getting You Through A Difficult Time 

Alimony is just one of several aspects of a divorce that is fraught with conflict and emotion. And if you feel that the support you are paying is too much, or there has been a significant change in your circumstances, you can petition the court to modify your alimony. But to do that, you will need an experienced divorce lawyer such as the team at Estevez-Pazos Law Firm, P.A. We have an outstanding track record of helping people achieve their goals in a divorce, and we are confident we can help you. Please contact us today for a free legal consultation.

Additional Reading

New Alimony Bill Drastically Changes Future Divorces

Alimony and Taxes: What You Need to Know

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