What Happens If You Don’t Pay Alimony in California?

If you or your spouse have filed for a divorce in California, you may be ordered to pay alimony. California functions under a “no-fault” assumption when filing for divorce. Meaning that no party needs to or can prove if the other spouse was in the wrong. So what does that mean for alimony?

Alimony means that you have been court-ordered to pay money to your spouse, typically through regular installments. You will have to continue to make payments until the time at which the court decides. If you stop making alimony payments before the court has ordered them to conclude, you could face civil or criminal charges for contempt of court.

Today, we will discuss how alimony in the state of California is defined, and the consequences you could face if you do not pay court-ordered alimony payments.

What is Alimony and How is the Amount Determined?

If you have a spouse who hasn’t worked outside being a caregiver of the home or has only held part-time employment to raise children and you two plan to divorce, then that spouse may seek to get alimony or spousal support. When determining the amount, the court will take into consideration the financial history, debts, and assets of the couple.

While going through a divorce, if both spouses are able to choose the amount and agree upon it, the court can then codify your agreement and proceed. However, if there is a dispute about how much alimony is to be paid, the court can determine the scale and conditions. Here are some of the factors that the court will take into consideration when calculating alimony:

  • If the career of the spouse was impacted by taking over childcare duties or unemployment.
  • Tax considerations.
  • Length of the marriage.
  • Health and age of both partners.
  • If there was domestic violence during the relationship.
  • If a partner helped the other get an education or professional license.
  • Property and debts
  • Each partner’s standard of living and needs.

The court can order for alimony to be paid for only a period or indefinitely. For any marriage or partnership under ten years, alimony will usually be ordered for around half of the length of the marriage. If your marriage was longer than ten years, the court has jurisdiction over the financial obligations.

What Happens If I Don’t Pay Alimony?

If you do not pay the alimony ordered by the court, then the court may implement consequences. First, the judge who ordered the alimony payments has the jurisdiction to call the payor to appear in court to explain the reason alimony payments have stopped. 

Failure to pay will result in a 10% APR penalty added to overdue payments by law. The judge has no input on this matter and can not waive these fees. Wage garnishments may also be made, deducting a portion of the payor’s regular paycheck. This means that the paying spouse’s employer will be notified that part of the paycheck must be withheld and sent directly to the spouse. However, there are other consequences the court my bestow:

  • Tax refund checks may have to be put towards the alimony payment.
  • Any property or asset that the payor may own that has value can be seized to cover the cost of the alimony owed.
  • If the payor owes a large sum of money, and the payee files for a judgment against you, the judge may rule that the payor must  pay the total amount plus interest.
  • If the court finds the payor in contempt with the order, they may order jail time.
  • The court may place a lien on the payor’s property.

Can I Terminate or Modify My Alimony?

The simple answer is yes. Either spouse can choose to request the alimony be modified, unless the original agreement specifies that modification cannot be made. 

There are two ways that you can modify alimony. 

First, you and your partner can agree to change the duration or the amount of the alimony. If this is what you and your spouse choose, there should be a written contract discussing the terms of the agreement. If you can’t agree, then your second option is to involve the courts. If this method is chosen, then you will need to file a motion into the court and prove a change in circumstances.

You may also be able to terminate your payment obligations altogether. You will also be asked to show a change of circumstances that will warrant termination. 

If the original agreement states that there is no way to terminate or modify alimony, the courts have no choice but to enforce the agreement as it stands. 

If there is a death of either spouse, alimony is terminated by default.

Let Our Expert Staff at Azemika & Azemika Law Help You Understand Alimony in California

Navigating a divorce is already a complex process. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the legal jargon when deciding if or how much alimony you or your spouse will pay. 

At Azemika & Azemika Law, we have experienced attorneys that are compassionate and willing to help you every step of the way during your divorce. We use our vast experience to customize each case based on the needs of the clients. As a result, we will help you find solutions that fit your concerns.

Reach out to us today to schedule a consultation. Let us focus on your family so that you can focus on your future.