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Alimony: Non-payment, enforcement and judicial remedies

Every state in the country has an official mechanism for enforcing child support payments and providing remedies when delinquent parents don't perform their obligations. In Georgia, that task falls to the Department of Human Services, most specifically to its Division of Child Support Services.

There is no equivalent counterpart within the state for dealing with ex-spouses who, following a divorce, underperform in their alimony (spousal support or maintenance) duties, but many of the same remedies exist for spouses who take an alimony matter to court and prove their case before a judge.

Failure of a former partner to honor alimony obligations is far from being deemed a trivial offense in Georgia or elsewhere across the country. In fact, it is considered as being in contempt of a court order, and judges routinely respond to egregious cases of non-payment in instances where a party is believed to have the ability to pay by taking any of a number of strong remedial actions.

Those include the following and additional measures: garnishment of wages; withholding of tax refunds and workers' compensation payments; putting a lien on realty and/or personal property; outright seizure of property through a writ of execution; suspension of a driver's license or other license; and notification to credit bureaus of delinquent payments.

Singly or collectively, these are strong coercive measures that can quickly bring about changed behavior in many ex-spouses with payment obligations.

The key to increasing chances of recovering unpaid alimony payments, say experts in the field, is to maintain accurate and detailed records concerning them.

Source: Forbes,"How can a divorcing woman get the child support, alimony she is owed?" Jeff Landers, Dec. 14, 2011


Phil, you are absolutely correct, filing a contempt action is the most direct and effective way to enforce any court order, especially a child support of alimony order. In a contempt action the court can order that the arrears be paid immediately, can order sanctions against the party not following the order and can even put the person failing to pay in jail. While bringing a contempt action is certainly the quickest and most powerful tool, it does require the person that is owed the money to file a lawsuit with the court and usually go to court for a hearing. This often necessitates that the plaintiff hire and pay an attorney. While those attorney’s fees are often recoverable during the contempt action, the Plaintiff must still come up with the money to hire an attorney up front. The only advantage of the using DHR is that it is usually free or next to free, though the process can take a very long time and the Plaintiff is often not being paid support during the process.

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