As a part of a divorce proceeding, alimony or spousal maintenance may be awarded to either party if one spouse has the ability to pay and the other party has a need for support. After receiving a spousal maintenance award, it is not uncommon for the spousal maintenance obligor to not pay or pay a smaller amount then ordered by the Court. In some circumstances, a spouse may try to offset his or her spousal maintenance obligation with other expenses that were not agreed upon by the parties.
If you are owed spousal maintenance pursuant to a Court Order, there are several options you can take to collect the money you are owed.
Initiating a Contempt of Court Action Against the Spousal Maintenance Obligor
If a spousal maintenance obligor willfully violates a Court Order by not paying spousal maintenance, you may bring a contempt of court action against him or her. A contempt of Court action includes personal service of the contempt motion and affidavit accompanying the motion. While it is typically a more costly process, it enables the Court to hold the spousal maintenance obligor in contempt for non-payment of spousal maintenance. A spouse found in contempt could face fines, attorney’s fees, and even jail time for not complying with the Court’s Order.
Docketing a Spousal Maintenance Judgment for Non-Payment of Spousal Maintenance
As provided by Minnesota Statute 548.091, a Spousal Maintenance recipient may serve an Affidavit of Default and a Notice of Entry and Docketing of Maintenance Judgment. After these documents are served on your former spouse, the former spouse has twenty (20) days to either pay all of the amounts owed as set forth in the affidavit of default or to request a hearing to address the issue of the amount of the unpaid spousal maintenance. While this process is typically less costly, especially if the obligor does not contest the amount owed, it does not have the penalties that can be assessed as a part of a contempt proceeding.
Collecting Spousal Maintenance After Obtaining a Judgment
Once a judgment is obtained, you will need to collect on the Judgment. There are many ways to collect on a judgment including but not limited to wage garnishment, levying accounts bank/brokerage accounts, and directing the sheriff sale of personal property such as motor vehicles. The Judgment awarded should increase at the Judgment interest rate which is presently 4%.
Contingency Fees for Collecting Spousal Maintenance Judgments
In some circumstances, attorneys may represent clients on a contingency basis in collecting spousal maintenance arrears. Working on a contingency means if there is no recovery, there are no attorney’s fees owed. Typically the spousal maintenance owed needs to be a significant amount where it is worth the attorney’s time to pursue such a case.
For more information on collecting past due spousal maintenance or defending a spouse maintenance collection action, please contact the attorneys at Gilbert Alden PLLC for a free consultation at 612-564-3622.