Behind on Spousal Support Payments

spousal support paymentsWhat happens if I fall behind on spousal support payments? Many divorced couples have a hard time dealing with having to pay or receive spousal support, also referred to as alimony. The amount and duration of spousal support is determined by a judge, and many different factors are considered. Each county in California has a different set of rules for temporary support, but for a final support order the court may consider several factors such as:

  • The length of the marriage or domestic partnership;
  • What each person needs based on the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership;
  • What each person pays or can pay (including earnings and earning capacity) to keep the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership;
  • Whether having a job would make it too hard to take care of the children;
  • The age and health of both people;
  • Debts and property;
  • Whether one spouse or domestic partner helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license;
  • Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage or domestic partnership;
  • Whether one spouse’s career was affected by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home; and
  • The tax impact of spousal support

Consequences of Falling Behind on Spousal Support Payments

If for some reason you fall behind on spousal support payments it is important to know the consequences and what options are available to you. In California, if you fall behind in spousal support payments, you must pay 10% interest per year on the balance due. Your court order may then include an amount over your regular payments to make up for what you owe. The amount that you owe is referred to as arrears. While paying off your arrears you will continue to pay interest on your balance.

If the court finds that you have the ability to pay but are not paying, they can hold you in “contempt of court”. This means you have violated a court order and could be subject to jail, but is often considered a last resort when all other methods of enforcement have failed.

Modifying Spousal Support Payments

One of the ways you may be able manage support payments is to request to modify the payments. If the judge orders an amount that either spouse or partner desires to change, the person asking for the change must be able to show a change in circumstances. The court wants to see that something has occurred that has a significant impact on that spouse’s finances or ability to pay since the support order was made. Examples may include losing a job or a significant decrease in pay. In some cases spouses agree to a specific amount and choose to draw up a written agreement which the judge then signs and incorporates into a new order.

Changing a spousal or partner support order will require completing several forms and supporting documents. For help understanding Spousal Support, contact an experienced Attorney. The Santa Rosa Family Law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. can help you understand your available options. Call our office today at (707) 576-7175.