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Enforcing Alimony and Child Support Agreements

Divorce can be a long drawn out legal process. Yet even when a divorce is finalized, other legal issues-- may be just beginning, specifically such as alimony and child support--may be just beginning.

Alimony and Child Support Basics

According to divorce law, alimony is payment made by an ex-spouse to the other, specifically for financial support. Alimony is awarded by a judge, who takes a number of factors into consideration before awarding alimony.

Specifically, a judge may consider the standard of living of the couple during marriage, the partners' income, the physical and emotional health of each partner and the need for financial support. If a judge chooses to award alimony, it usually will be an amount that can pay for basic necessitates such as food and shelter.

Child support is are payments made by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent for the benefit of a minor child or children. According to, a court will decide whether a parent must pay child support depending on the specifics of the relationship of the parents.

Child Support, Alimony and Enforcement

If a parent or ex-spouse refuses to pay alimony and child support, the parent or ex-spouse owed does have multiple courses of action he or she can take.

Specifically the ex-spouse or parent should seek to file a motion or petition with the court to order payment. There are a number of means to enforce this order.

  • Execution and Sale:: After a person who is owed money files a "writ of execution" with the court, the local sheriff will then act to seize specified property from the one that who owes payment. This property is then sold off. Money collected during the sale goes to cover alimony and child support.
  • Wage Garnishment:: If a person is owed alimony and child support, he or she can have a court order a wage garnishment. A wage garnishment is when money is taken from someone's paycheck and used to pay off money owed. However, there may be limits to how much of someone's income may be withheld under state and federal law.
  • Contempt:: If a court order is in place and alimony and child support still are not being paid, then the one owed money can file for a contempt proceeding. Contempt can result in a short jail term, a fine or both. Each payment missed can constitute a separate incident of contempt.
  • Sequestration: Similar to "Execution and Sale," sequestration is when property of the person who owes money is held onto until he or she pays alimony and child support.

Seeking Legal Advice

If you have issues related to child support, alimony or divorce, you should seek the advice of a lawyer. A lawyer can help you draft and file the necessary paperwork needed to initiate a claim for child support or , alimony, or a to file for divorce. A lawyer can also help file the motion required to receive a court order to force the ex-spouse or parent who owes alimony and child support to pay.

To find a lawyer, consult your local bar association.