What Happens If You Can’t Pay Alimony?

What Happens If You Can't Pay Alimony?

Have you been ordered to pay alimony, but find yourself struggling to make the court-ordered payments?

Alimony payments ensure that both parties are able to maintain the same standard of living after divorce that they did during their marriage. In many marriages, one spouse earns more money than the other. Alimony helps to even the score once the marriage dissolves.

Although the requirements vary from state to state, when a couple divorces after 10 or more years of marriage, alimony is almost always awarded to the lesser-earning spouse.

But, what happens if you can’t pay alimony?

If you’re having trouble making alimony payments, this post is for you.

Find out what happens when you can’t afford court-ordered alimony payments here!

How Is Alimony Determined?

When a couple ends their marriage, they often enter into an agreement, rather than go to court. This agreement is known as a “divorce settlement”, and it allows both parties to have a say in the terms of their divorce. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, a court date is set and a judge decides on the terms of the divorce.

But, no matter if you and your ex-spouse agree on a divorce settlement, or whether a judge has decided matters on your behalf, you are court-ordered to oblige. An order by the court becomes the law.

Unless you take measures to modify a court order, you must abide by its’ instructions. This includes meeting any financial obligations that are assigned to you, as well as respecting the right to property, custody arrangements, and any other areas that might be addressed by the courts in a divorce.

Unlike child support payment in most cases, there is no formula to determine the exact amount of alimony awarded in a divorce. But, there are many standard considerations that are taken into account to decide how much money the responsible party must pay. And, part of this process is determining how much the paying party can reasonably afford to pay.

If you’ve been ordered to pay alimony to your ex-partner, you either agreed to make the payments, or a judge believed that you could afford the payments based on the financial information they were provided.

What Happens If You Can’t Pay Alimony?

If you can’t pay alimony, there are a few things that you need to know.

First of all, you cannot simply stop paying the amount of alimony that has been ordered by the court. If you do, you could face serious legal consequences.

Late alimony payments aren’t usually acceptable, either. This is especially true if late payments become a habit, or if you are unable to pay the agreed-upon amount each month consistently.

So, what should you do if you can’t afford your alimony payments?

Before you decide what to do, you need to know what type of alimony has been ordered in your case.

Non-Modifiable vs Modifiable Alimony

There are two types of alimony that can be ordered by the court: modifiable and non-modifiable.

If you have been ordered modifiable alimony, you can petition the courts to lower your alimony payments if your circumstances change.

Non-modifiable alimony cannot be altered, even if you feel like your present circumstances warrant a reduction in the amount you’re required to pay.

However, if your court order calls for modifiable alimony payments, one option that you have is to petition the courts and ask them to reduce your alimony payments. If you choose to go this route, you will need to prove to the courts that a reduction in payments is warranted.

What Circumstances Warrant a Change in Alimony Payments?

There must be a valid reason for reducing alimony payments. These might include the following:

  • A reduction in income
  • An increase in your ex-spouse’s income
  • Loss of employment
  • You become disabled
  • Your ex-spouse remarries
  • Your ex-spouse petitions the court to drop alimony payments

There may be additional life circumstances that may warrant a change in alimony, as well. Also, if your payments are only ordered for a specific amount of time, for example, 10 years, you can stop payments when you reach the time limit.

What If Your Spouse Reports Non-Payment of Alimony?

Your ex-spouse can also petition the court to ask that they help to enforce alimony payments. If this occurs and the court finds that you have not been paying your alimony as ordered, you could receive a fine or another type of punishment. In some cases, you could even receive jail time.

It can help to hire an attorney if you have to go to court for non-payment of alimony. The court will usually work out an agreement with you to catch up on your past-due payments.

At this time, your attorney can also ask the court to reduce future payments. They can also work with your spouse’s attorney to form a new payment agreement that’s more feasible for you.

Your spouse can ask that the court eliminate or reduce payments as well. However, the court is not obligated to honor their request.

The best thing to do if you know you are going to be late or miss an upcoming alimony payment prior to the due date is to contact the court and your ex-spouse ahead of time. Then, you can offer an explanation and suggest a time when they can expect to receive your next payment.

Are You Facing a Major Life Change & Looking For Advice?

Life changes aren’t always easy to navigate. Along with covering what happens if you can’t pay alimony, we offer more tips and advice to help get you through life’s other rocky adjustment periods, too.

Take a look at our website, where you’ll find information on moving, self-improvement tips, and other helpful articles!


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