What Happens If I Don’t Pay Alimony in Los Angeles, CA?

Nikoo Berenji, Mar 17, 2022

Whether we agree with it or not, the legal system allows for an ex-spouse to receive alimony payments. Either the parties agree at the time of the divorce to a set amount to be paid, or the judge will order the amount it feels is appropriate based on the law and the couple’s particular situation. Many times the spouse obligated to pay may not want to make those payments, simply can no longer afford to make those payments, or feels they should not have to make those alimony payments.

How Are Alimony Payments Calculated in Los Angeles?

The length of time alimony payments are to be made is determined by a judge in a Los Angeles family court. The duration is usually based on the length of the marriage. Those payments may either be for a term of years or they could be awarded permanently. If alimony is unpaid, alimony arrears will accrue, meaning the owed debt from these past due alimony payments.

What Are the Legal Consequences of Not Paying Alimony?

An individual court-ordered to make alimony payments who fails to pay will be facing serious legal consequences. Failure to pay spousal support, or alimony, can lead to the person having their driver’s license suspended; they could also be held in contempt of court and ultimately end up paying more, among other things.

Anytime a court orders someone to pay money to their spouse, it is usually through regular installments. Those payments will have to be paid until the time period lapses pursuant to that court order. If you stop paying alimony before the time period is concluded, the non-paying ex-spouse could face civil or even criminal charges in some cases for contempt of court. A finding of contempt could result in a fine, but also potential jail time.

Even though a case is closed or finalized, the judge, or court, who ordered the alimony typically retains jurisdiction to call the payor of alimony into court and order them to explain why the alimony payments have stopped. A penalty for failing to pay may be imposed for those overdue payments. That penalty cannot be waived by the judge. 

The payor might also be subject to having their wages garnished, meaning an order would be placed upon that person’s employer to automatically deducted monies owed from their salary or payroll check. In order to do this, the person’s employer would be notified so that they can withhold the funds from the employee’s check. Many times a person would rather not have their workplace know what is going on in their personal lives and therefore would want to avoid this consequence for not paying alimony.

Additionally, the IRS may be notified and tax refund checks may have to be used to pay down the alimony owed. If the person owns any real property or asset that has value, it may be seized to cover the cost of alimony owed or a lien could be placed on a payor’s property. If the amount owed is substantial and the payee files for a judgment against the payor, the judge may rule that the payor must pay not only what is owed, but also order interest be paid on the amount owed.

What Should I Do if I Don’t Pay Alimony in Los Angeles?

If you are owed alimony and your ex-spouse is not paying, you may want to seek out an attorney to help enforce the court order and seek one of these remedies. If on the other hand, you are the payor, ordered to make the payments but feel that you cannot make the payment and need help, you may be eligible to request that the alimony be modified or even terminated. An experienced attorney can go over your particular situation to advise you on what options you have based on your individual circumstances.