Many people have heard of legal sanctions for non payment of child support, but non-compliance with alimony orders can also result in costly penalties. Some may argue that adults are not in the same predicament as children, but failure to receive court ordered support can result in poverty, bad credit, homelessness and other devastating consequences for the dependent spouse. There are, of course, legitimate reasons for why a spouse has trouble making his or her alimony payments. However, these reasons need to be presented in court via an alimony modification request. Choosing not to pay, regardless of the reasons, is a violation of an existing court order, which is starting to become a very serious matter in the New Jersey family courts.
In fact, a case that was recently decided by the Somerset County superior court resulted in community service for both spouses for what the judge determined to be willful non-compliance with the marital settlement agreement. Furthermore, both parties were warned that continual failure to comply may result in additional sanctions. These sanctions include, but are not limited to:
- Ordering the paying spouse to pay interest based on the arrears in addition to the alimony owed.
- Suspension of driving privileges.
- Mandatory participation in a community service program.
- Time in jail, with or without work release.
Sanctions such as community service and incarceration, which used to be reserved for non payers of child support, may seem overly harsh to some people. Judges, however, are clearly fed up with individuals who seem to have little to no respect for the courts. In addition to the lack of respect, non-compliance with alimony orders forces dependent spouses to file motions that tie up the court system. The burden that is put on the courts, as well as the dependent spouses and children, is such a serious issue that judges are starting to go after the lawyers, and even complicit third party members. Basically, anyone who is found to be involved in, or is aiding an individual in a deliberate act of non-compliance with a court order may be subject to a wide variety of legal sanctions.
The recent rise in aggressive sanctions means that both paying and receiving spouses must take action right away if there are problems with late or missing alimony payments. Most paying spouses fail to take action because they assume that the judge will automatically side with the other party. The truth is, judges are aware that there are unforeseeable, no-fault reasons for why someone needs a break from his or her alimony obligations. These reasons should be discussed with an experienced with an experienced family law attorney, who can advise you on your rights and legal options. Receiving spouses should also speak to an attorney as soon as possible in order to get some sort of resolution, and hopefully avoid long-term financial hardship. For more information about sanctions for non-compliance with alimony orders, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.