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How alimony and spousal support orders are enforced

As previous posts on this blog have discussed, alimony and spousal support make up an important part of the divorce or separation process in North Carolina. Judges have broad discretion to issue alimony awards, and they often do so with an eye toward providing for a spouse’s basic financial needs or making sure that, overall, their orders are fair and treat the parties even-handedly.

This is why it is almost always a frustrating experience when one spouse simply decides to ignore the court’s orders and not pay alimony or spousal support. Oftentimes, the failure to do so may come in the wake of a barrage of excuses that do not really add up when one thinks about them.

Fortunately, North Carolina law does give judges considerable power to enforce alimony and spousal support orders. At the outset, a court can order an upfront payment of alimony or may decide to require some sort of collateral, like a mortgage on a house, in order to make sure the money gets paid in a timely fashion. As is the case with child support, a court may also require someone who is earning income to execute an appropriate income withholding order.

After the fact, a judge may reduce delinquent alimony to a judgment, meaning that it accrues interest and, if the judge so specifies, operate as a lien on a person’s property. A judge may also use the contempt power of the court to make someone pay and to punish those who refuse to do so. Holding someone in contempt can mean the person accused will go to jail.

The bottom line is that Charlotte residents have a lot of options when it comes to enforcing an alimony order, and they should not be afraid to exercise these options if they need to do so. However, they may wish to first get the advice and help of an experienced family law attorney.