Winning your right to alimony in a Pennsylvania divorce is unfortunately not always the end of the story. An ex-spouse may fall behind in alimony payments or simply refuse to pay alimony for any number of reasons: claiming that he doesn’t have the money; taking issue with how you are spending the money; arguing that you don’t need the money because you have a higher-paying job; arguing you already receive child support; or just flat-out not handing over the alimony to which a state court has determined you are entitled.
To be clear, none of these are valid reasons for an ex-spouse to unilaterally stop paying the alimony you are owed, and there are numerous methods by which a Pennsylvania state court will take action to ensure that you do receive your alimony.
An Ex-Spouse Cannot Stop Paying Your Full Alimony Without a Court-Ordered Modification
If an ex-spouse does believe there is some kind of changed circumstance which justifies his not paying the alimony or lowering your alimony, he cannot simply make this decision on his own.
Instead, he will need to go back to court and request a modification of the alimony order from your divorce. In so doing, he will need to provide the court with evidence of a material change in circumstances from the time the alimony was first ordered that justifies the requested change.
This might be a loss of a job for him, or your obtaining a higher-paying job, but neither of those situations will automatically mean that the court will indeed decide to modify the alimony (e.g. if the paying spouse can easily obtain a new job).
In any case, any change in your alimony payment can only occur as the result of the court deciding to change that order.
Note that you as the receiving spouse also have the right to request an increase in your alimony payment from the court if you have experienced a material change of circumstances from the initial order, such as the loss of a job or the other spouse obtaining a higher paying job.
Working With an Attorney to Have a PA Court Enforce Your Alimony Order
If your spouse is refusing to pay your full alimony payment on time, you can work with a family law attorney to petition the PA court who ordered the alimony to take additional steps to enforce the order.
The various ways that a PA court can implement to enforce your existing alimony order (including alimony pendent lite, which is temporary alimony awarded during the divorce proceedings) include:
- Garnishing up to 50% of the paying spouse’s wages
- Seizing the paying spouse’s property
- Requiring the paying spouse to provide collateral to enforce his or her obligation
- Collecting rents and profits from real estate held by the paying spouse
- Awarding you interest on unpaid alimony payments
- Bringing contempt charges against the paying party
- Sentencing the paying spouse to up to six months in prison
Certainly, most paying spouses do want to avoid these outcomes, and thus simply having a family law attorney on your side to contact your ex-spouse with a strongly-worded communication regarding the consequences of not paying alimony in full and on time can achieve the desired outcome without court action.
Get Help With Your PA Family Law Matter Today
At The Martin Law Firm, P.C., our family law team works with men and women across Southeastern Pennsylvania in family law matters – including property distribution, alimony, child custody, and visitation – and we are committed to serving your needs in a compassionate and efficient manner. Call us today for a no-hassle consultation regarding any questions you have about divorce in Pennsylvania.