Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, is a financial award designed to help a more financially dependent spouse during or after a divorce. Maryland law has several types of spousal support designed to help the lesser-earning spouse until he or she can improve his or her ability to support him or herself financially. The court decides if alimony is appropriate, how much should be paid, what form of spousal support and how long it should last.
But what happens if one spouse decides he or she no longer wants to pay the award? Can the payor go to jail for refusing to comply with the order?
Yes, you can go to jail for not paying alimony. However, most people will not go to jail, as there are other options available. Here, we discuss how spousal support orders are enforced, and what could happen when one spouse refuses to pay.
How does Maryland enforce spousal support orders?
Spousal support is a court-ordered payment. When one spouse has been ordered to pay alimony to the other, he or she must comply with the order, or could face serious consequences. If the party who is supposed to be receiving alimony is not receiving payments, the court can enforce the order if the paying spouse lives in Maryland, if he or she lives in a state in the United States which has a reciprocal agreement with Maryland, or if he or she owns property in Maryland such as real estate, bank accounts, a business or stocks and bonds. (Maryland People’s Law Library)
If a person refuses to pay court-ordered spousal support, despite having the ability to do so, he or she may be held in contempt of court. Contempt can result in jail time, though it is not common in these cases.
Maryland has a mandatory earnings withholding statute (MD Code Fam. Law § 10-121) to which spousal support orders are automatically subject. The law allows the court to withhold the court-ordered amount from the paying spouse’s salary and send it to the spouse who receives it.
If the divorce agreement requires Person A to transfer property to Person B, but Person A refuses to do so, Person B can file a contempt action, or petition the court to appoint a third-party to execute the transfer at the other party’s expense. Furthermore, “When the court has ordered child support, alimony, attorney’s fees, or a monetary award, the property of a noncomplying obligor may be seized or sequestered in accordance with the procedures of Rules 2-648 and 2-651.” (Rule 9-210: Attachment, Seizure, and Sequestration) Please note, however, that note that this seizure only occurs when the obligor (the person paying the alimony) is not a Maryland resident. The rule applies to nonresident obligors only.
Additional methods for enforcing court-ordered spousal support
The courts have other means available to collect unpaid spousal support payments, which might include suspending the payor’s professional licenses; or garnishing wages, bank accounts, tax refunds, lottery winnings, or other forms of income if there are outstanding spousal support payments due.
Non-payment of spousal support can have serious implications in several areas of a person’s life. An experienced Annapolis divorce attorney from the law firm of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC can represent you in enforcing spousal support payments.
If you are having trouble receiving spousal support payments after a divorce, talk to the divorce attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC. We can represent in your spousal support enforcement efforts. You can reserve a consultation at our office in Annapolis by calling 410.921.2422 or filling out our contact form.