How is an award of alimony enforced? Once again, it pays to have an aggressive and knowledgeable attorney on your side.
First of all, the award of spousal maintenance needs to be in the decree. That way, it's a court order. Language in the decree for spousal support directly commands the defendant to pay, whereas an agreement not included in the decree merely results in an ordinary judgment for money.
The words “support and maintenance” do not necessarily have be used in the decree. But the order should clearly and separately specify child support vs. spousal maintenance.
The court may order that maintenance payments be made to the clerk of the court. By special order, a court can impose a lien on the paying spouse’s separate property or on the community property awarded to that spouse to secure payment of maintenance. The court may not require the husband to post a bond to discharge the maintenance payments. Some courts have ordered trusts to secure alimony payments. Voluntary payments of the dependent spouse’s health care bills will be considered gifts and cannot be credited against maintenance, unless the dependent spouse consents.
A.R.S. § 25-551 permits the clerk of court to provide services to assist a person to collect spousal maintenance. These services initially include, among other things, providing information on collection and enforcement procedures, assistance in the preparation of documents and instructions on how to initiate an enforcement action. The clerk of court may also intercept a taxpayer’s state income tax refund for collection purposes.
The superior court maintains jurisdiction to establish, enforce or modify spousal maintenance. Such legal actions have priority over all other civil actions, except for child support actions or judicial authorizations.
The deadline to file a request for a judgment for spousal maintenance arrearages is not later than three years after the date the spousal maintenance order terminates. There is no bar to establishing a money judgment for all of the unpaid spousal maintenance arrearages. Judgments for spousal maintenance and for associated costs and attorney’s fees are exempt from renewal and are enforceable until paid in full.
It is now a class 1 misdemeanor to willfully and without lawful excuse fail to comply with the terms of a spousal maintenance order.
New amendments to A.R.S. § 33-1103 eliminate the homestead exemption when a judgment lien is in place because of unpaid child support or spousal maintenance payments. However, alimony only constitutes a lien when the debt is recorded as a judgment by the dependent spouse, or the court assigns a specific security interest of the property for alimony. At a contempt proceeding for not paying alimony, a court may consider payment of the unpaid child support or spousal maintenance with homestead monies.
Obviously, if you are facing divorce, spousal maintenance,
child support, or
child custody issues in the Phoenix metro area, you need an aggressive
Phoenix divorce lawyer fighting for you.
Contact us right away for a free consultation.