On behalf of The Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A.
“What can possibly go wrong if I miss an alimony payment or two – or stop making these payments altogether?” this is the thought that crosses the minds of millions of divorced persons who have a legal obligation to pay alimony to their former spouse after a divorce.
Weeks or months later, that thought is usually followed by “I wish I made that payment so I would not have to face these crazy consequences.” As you may have already guessed, Florida courts treat the issue of failing to make alimony payments very seriously.
‘To pay or NOT to pay alimony to my former spouse?’
If you have a legal obligation to pay alimony to your former wife or husband, do yourself a favor and keep making these payments. Or you may have another option. If there has been a substantial change of circumstances since you were ordered to make alimony payments, you may be able to modify the amount or terminate the alimony altogether.
Either way, it has to be approved by court. “You cannot just stop making alimony payments all of a sudden without getting the court’s approval,” explains our Fort Lauderdale alimony attorney at the Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A., “If you do, you may face serious consequences.”
Let’s talk about the consequences of failing to pay alimony in Florida.
Types of alimony in Florida
Generally, there are four types of alimony in Fort Lauderdale and elsewhere in Florida. Regardless of the type of alimony you are obliged to pay to your former wife or husband, the consequences and penalties for failing to make alimony payments will depend on the amount owed, the period of time you have not been making these payments, your spouse’s financial needs and physical and emotional condition, among other things.
Let’s review the four types of alimony in Florida:
- Bridge-the-gap Alimony. This type of alimony does exactly what its name implies: it bridges the gap between the former spouses’ standard of living. More often than not, the receiving spouse is eligible to receive the bridge-the-gap alimony for up to two years or until either spouse remarries or dies.
- Rehabilitative Alimony. This type of alimony is awarded to the receiving spouse who needs to acquire or brush up professional skills through education or training so that he or she could be able to find a job and provide for himself/herself. This type of alimony sticks to a specific plan, and can be terminated when the receiving spouse develops necessary skills for work.
- Durational Alimony. This type of alimony is paid by the spouse with larger income for a specific number of months or years. Typically, the length of durational alimony is never longer than the length of the marriage.
- Permanent Alimony. In some cases, the judge may order the spouse with larger income to make alimony payments until one of the spouses dies or the paying spouse can no longer afford to make these payments. This type of alimony is more common for long-term marriages.
Consequences and penalties for not paying alimony in Florida
Think twice before missing an alimony payment, as Florida law imposes serious consequences and penalties for failing to make alimony payments in time or refusing to pay alimony altogether.
- Contempt of court. If you are found to be “contempt of court” by the judge, you may face a fine or a short jail sentence, or both. “In the worst-case scenario, you will be ordered to remain in jail until you have paid the alimony you owe,” explains our alimony attorney in Fort Lauderdale.
- Wage garnishment. While this one is not as extreme as serving a jail sentence for failing to pay alimony, it is definitely not the most exciting thing that can happen to you. If you miss an alimony payment, the judge can order that a certain amount of your wages is automatically deducted until the entire debt is paid or the alimony is terminated.
- Seizure of property. Your property and valuable assets could be seized by the court if you stop making alimony payments. Besides physical property, these can include rental income, royalties, bank balances, and many more.
- Property liens. The court may also place a lien on your property for failing to pay alimony. In other words, if a lien is placed on your property, you will not be able to sell it until you pay the entire debt.
- Tax refund designation. The judge may also order that your income tax refund be used to cover the unpaid alimony payments to the receiving spouse.
- Judgment and interest. “This one is more common if there is a large amount of unpaid alimony,” explains our Fort Lauderdale alimony attorney. If the receiving spouse files for a judgment against you, and the judge issues a judgment, you will be obliged to pay all the alimony payments owed plus interest and your former spouse’s legal fees.
Remember: if you cannot make alimony payments, you may have legal options to modify the alimony or terminate it altogether. But do NOT stop paying alimony or you may end up facing severe consequences. Contact the Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A., to find out more about your options. Call at 954-533-2756 or complete this contact form to get a free consultation.