Finally. It is over. You can take a deep breath and relax a bit because your divorce has been finalized and one of the most stressful decisions and processes in your life is now behind you. It is time to move on with your life and make new memories for yourself and your family.
But what if it is not over? What if your former spouse is not following the divorce decree? Is there anything you can do?
The simple answer is that yes, there is some recourse you can take if your ex is not following the divorce order. Of course, it depends on the divorce order, what it says, and what aspects of it your former spouse is ignoring.
I was awarded spousal support but my ex refuses to pay. What can I do?
If your divorce order requires your former spouse to provide short- or long-term financial support but they are refusing to make the payments, you should first ask them why. It is possible they may have a valid reason for not making the payments, such as an involuntary job loss or income reduction due to an injury or illness. If your ex refuses to speak with you, or if the circumstances make it unsafe or inadvisable for you to have a conversation, it is time to speak with your Columbia divorce attorney. Your lawyer can file a motion notifying the court of your ex’s failure to meet their financial obligation as required by the divorce agreement and asking the judge to order your ex to make all past due payments and make future payments on time. Often referred to as a motion for enforcement or contempt, this is the first step in getting your former spouse to make their spousal support payments.
Before making a ruling, the court will attempt to determine why your former spouse is not making the required alimony payments. Depending on the reason, the court may consider them incapable of making spousal support payments – at least for the time being. The judge may modify the spousal support agreement to ensure you receive some payment until your ex is able to make the full payments again.
However, if the court finds that your ex is financially able to make the spousal support payments agreed to in your divorce order but is simply refusing to make the payments, the judge may hold your ex in contempt of court. This can result in jail time, although that is fairly uncommon. Maryland’s mandatory withholding statute allows the court to withhold the court-ordered amount from your ex’s salary and send it to you.
The court can also opt to garnish other forms of income from your former spouse. This includes any other wages, bank accounts, tax offsets, stocks and bonds, and even lottery winnings. If your ex has a professional license, the state may choose to suspend the license until your ex makes past due payments. If your former spouse is NOT a resident of Maryland but does own property in the state of Maryland, the court may decide to seize and sequester that property until past due spousal support is paid.
Help! My divorce order says I get the house but my ex is refusing to transfer it to me.
Ending your marriage can be traumatic enough without having to fight for a place to live. If you were granted property in your divorce – the family home or a vacation property, for instance, or any other physical property – and your ex is refusing to transfer that property to you, your divorce lawyer can help. Your attorney can file a motion of contempt with the court and petition the court to appoint a third party to execute the property transfer at your ex’s expense.
My former spouse is not making child support payments. What happens now?
The court does not look kindly on those who do not fulfill their financial responsibilities to their children. The state of Maryland does not make it easy for parents to shirk their responsibility. For example, all new court orders “have support payments made by wage attachment.” It is the person paying child support who is responsible for making all payments in full and on time, and for updating the state regarding any changes in employment, including new jobs, job loss, disability, or incarceration.
When child support has been ordered, Maryland law requires it be paid until the child reaches the age of 18, although it may be extended to the age of 19 if the child is still enrolled in high school. A parent who has been ordered to pay child support but fails to do so may think that they can simply wait it out until the child comes of age and then be off the hook for the payments. However, according to the Maryland Department of Human Services, if child support is past due, the state will “continue to enforce payment until the arrears are paid in full – regardless of the age of the child.” Additionally, the state may opt to intercept the non-custodial parent’s tax offset if arrears are substantial enough:
- State tax offset. If a non-custodial parent is in arrears of $150 or more, and if the arrears are equal to or greater than two times the monthly child support order, the state may intercept their state income tax refund.
- Federal tax offset. For arrears that are $500 or more, and equal to or greater than two times the monthly support order, the state may intercept the non-custodial parent’s federal income tax refund.
If your ex is not paying their court-ordered child support, the court will consider if they are unable to make the payments in full and on time. Did your spouse’s income decrease due to a job loss or other financial hardship since the divorce decree was issued? Were they injured or did they become disabled and are unable to work? If there is a valid reason your ex is not making their child support payments, the court may decide to modify the child support order.
If the court determines that your former spouse is financially capable of paying child support in full and on time but is refusing to do so, the court may order the garnishment of your former spouse’s wages, including income from employment, unemployment, or worker’s compensation. Or, a judge may decide to charge your ex with a misdemeanor. In addition to fines, a conviction carries a maximum penalty of 36 months in jail.
Ultimately, if your ex is refusing to follow any aspect of your divorce order, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced Columbia divorce lawyer. McCabe Russell, PA can help. We are adept at handling all aspects of divorce, and are prepared to handle any issues or complications that may arise during or after your divorce proceedings. You do not have to face this alone. Call us today at 443-917-3347 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Columbia, Maryland and in Bethesda, Rockville, and the surrounding areas.