Divorce involves many overlapping legal, personal and financial issues. We understand that you may have confusion over some of these concerns, such as alimony. The term “alimony” is interchangeable with “spousal support.” Though similar to child support in some ways, there are differences between the two beyond who benefits. The most significant difference may be that, while child support is essentially a given if your divorce involves children of the relationship, the court has a choice when deciding whether to award alimony.
If the court decides on alimony, the order becomes enforceable. This means that if you or your spouse fail to live up to your obligations as it relates to spousal support, the court can impose penalties against you.
According to National Paralegal College, failure to comply with spousal support obligations can incur either civil or criminal contempt of court charges. Criminal charges could lead to jail time. However, courts may be more likely file civil contempt charges against someone who fails to pay child support, especially in certain jurisdictions.
Civil contempt charges relating to alimony nonpayment still involve penalties, however. The court may garnish your wages to remedy the situation. If you own real estate, the court may issue a lien against the property. Another possibility is that the court could seize property such as an income tax refund and apply it to your alimony obligation.
The court takes several factors into consideration when deciding whether to order alimony, for whose benefit and in what amount. The duration of the marriage can be a major consideration. The court is less likely to award alimony after the end of a brief marriage. The court also considers factors such as the current income and earning capacity of each spouse.