Collection of unpaid child support and spousal support
There are various ways to enforce existing orders if a party has failed to do something they have been ordered to do. For example, the other parent may have failed to pay child support as ordered by the Court. Your ex-spouse may not be paying the Court-ordered spousal support or has failed to maintain life insurance coverage that was ordered by the Court. It is not uncommon for a party to wait for many years to collect unpaid child or spousal support because he/she does not know what to do. A spouse may also seek an order enforcing property orders such as an order to sell real property or transfer an interest in a retirement plan.
There are various remedies available for enforcing existing Court orders. It is important that your family law attorney has the experience and competence to determine the enforcement method that will be most effective for you under the circumstances of your case. The following enforcement remedies may be available to you in your case:
Contempt – A contempt action is normally a quasi-community action that can result in the other party being placed in jail or financially sanctioned for failing to comply with a court order. For example, if the other parent has failed to pay you court-ordered child support for the last 12 months, then you have the ability to file a contempt action requesting that that party be held in contempt for 12 counts of contempt. You are normally required to show that there was a valid court order, the other parent knew of the order, and the other party willfully disobeyed the order. The Court can sentence a party to the equivalent of five days in jail for each county of contempt. The Court also has the optioning of ordering community service or financially sanctioning a party if he/she is found guilty of contempt.
Your family law attorney must have significant experience and competence to bring a successful contempt action. Very few lay persons will be able to successfully prosecute a contempt action due to the complex issues involved. A contempt action not only involves family laws, but also numerous evidence and criminal laws relating to the trial on contempt issues. You are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the other party is in contempt of court. You must make sure that the pleadings that you file with the Court relating to contempt establish sufficient facts and circumstances with specificity as to each count of contempt. Many attorneys do not understand how to file proper contempt actions because they are not familiar with the laws relating to contempt actions. However, contempt is an extremely effective remedy because very few people actually want to be placed in jail. It is also a myth that judges do not sentence people to jail when they are held in contempt of court. I handle many contempt actions, and can testify that judges do place people in jail routinely for violating court orders.
Bank Levies – You have the ability to collect unpaid support or other monies via a bank levy. A bank levy is essentially a mechanism wherein the Court issues an order authorizing the County Sheriff to take monies without notice out of the bank account of the delinquent payor. This enforcement is extremely successful if the delinquent payor has sufficient financial resources in his or her bank accounts. Your family law attorney must be experienced to understand the procedures that must be followed to successfully complete a bank levy. The process is extremely complex to even very experienced family law attorneys. However, the results can be very effective due to the surprise of a bank levy.
Liens on Real Property – You may be able to obtain a lien on real property against a personal who owes you money or unpaid support. This enforcement remedy may be particularly effective if the person is selling or refinancing the real property at issue. The party will be required to pay the amount of money owed from the refinance or sale proceeds.
Wage Assignment / Wage Garnishment – You may be able to obtain an order garnishing the wages of the other party to collect unpaid support or money due and owing to you. Wage assignments are available for unpaid child support, spousal support, or support arrearages. Your attorney must know the correct forms to file with the Court, as well as how to properly fill out these forms. Wage assignments / wage garnishments are an extremely effective way to collect money that is due to you on a monthly basis when a party has failed to honor his or her financial obligations to you.