Failure to Pay Spousal Support

If a judge signs a legal spousal support order, one spouse is legally obligated to make alimony payments to the other spouse. If the paying spouse fails to do so, the receiving spouse can enforce the spousal support judgment. Here’s how to enforce spousal support judgments in California.

To enforce spousal support in California, parents can get a court-ordered earnings assignment, file a contempt action with the court, get a determination of arrears. or contact their local child support agency.

Effective Ways to Collect Alimony

California’s legal procedure provides multiple ways for spousal support judgments to be enforced. Although some consider it difficult to enforce spousal support, many people feel content with California legal judgment process.

Earnings Assignment

An earning assignment is a court-ordered payroll deduction. The debtor’s employer can deduct from the debtor’s earnings and assign earnings directly to the entitled spouse. The employer is legally obligated to assign earnings to the entitled spouse within 10 days of the judge ordering the earnings assignment. If the employer fails to do so, they can be legally liable. Earnings assignments are also applicable to debtors that are self-employed or have multiple income sources.

Social Security and disability benefits are exempt from earnings assignments. However, if the court order includes child support Social Security or Disability benefits can be eligible for collection.

Related: How to Get an Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal Support in California

Contempt of Court

Contempt of court is a criminal offense in which individuals do not follow a court order, such as disobeying a civil judgment. Spousal support is a civil judgment, meaning that criminal action can be pursued against those that violate a spousal support judgment. To prove contempt of court, a petitioner can file an Order to Show Cause requesting that the debtor appears in court. If the court finds that the debtor willfully disobeyed the spousal support order, the judge may find them in contempt of court and order jail time. Debtors often seek to repay alimony once faced with the possibility of jail time, making contempt of court an effective means to collect spousal support.

Determination of Arrears

A judge can determine arrears and decree orders accordingly. If arrears are present, a California judge can order additional monthly payments on top of the original spousal support amount, or mandate a 10% accrued interest rate on any payments that the debtor fails to make. The 10% annual rate begins on the date of default.

Get in Touch With a Local Child Support Agency

When it comes to enforcing spousal support orders, child support agencies wield a lot of power. A local child support agency can enforce spousal support payments by:

  • Suspending the debtor’s driver’s license
  • Report outstanding alimony payments to credit reporting agencies
  • Deny passport renewal
  • File liens against the debtor’s property

If your ex-spouse will not return your requests for spousal support, your local child support agency can find them through the:

  • Federal Parent Locator Service
  • California New Employee Registry

The government provides many options to ensure that debtors follow spousal support orders and make legally-decreed alimony payments.


What happens if you don’t pay spousal support in California?

If a spouse fails to make alimony payments, they may face serious legal consequences. Debtors that fail to pay spousal support can have their license suspended, be held in contempt of court, and end up having to pay even more, among other things.

Do I need a lawyer to enforce spousal support in California?

Although California’s legal system provides many options for spouses seeking alimony, enforcing spousal support can be difficult and confusing. A spousal support attorney can effectively navigate through California’s legal procedure regarding the determination of arrears, contempt of court, and earnings assignment, keeping you informed at every turn.

Related: Does My Husband Have to Pay for My Divorce Lawyer?

Contact Us

If you are seeking to enforce a spousal support order, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the most qualified attorney for your unique legal situation.