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What if I quit paying alimony?

Alimony payments in the 21st century are a contentious issue. The work environment has changed since the laws went on the books, with women making up roughly half of the work force today and dual income households becoming the norm.

The Florida legislature is working to change current terms, but it remains a work in progress. Many of Florida's alimony settlements are higher and more permanent than other states that have enacted formulas and payment caps.

If you're fed up, what happens if you simply quit making your payments?

Hold off on this idea.

Alimony payments are an official court order from your divorce settlement. A violation is of alimony is contempt of court. If you stop payment, you'll receive a warning from the court, followed by a reprimand hearing where you'll face mounting penalties:

  • Back payment of missing funds
  • Court and attorney fees for your ex-spouse
  • Garnish your wages for regular payment
  • Even jail time
  • Depending on your divorce agreement, the court may be able to seize assets

There are justified cases where alimony can be modified, but it has to be done through legal means.

  • If you've changed jobs, especially involuntarily, or come upon other financial hardship.
  • If your ex-spouse is involved in a new relationship, especially one that offers financial support or cohabitation.

Even in these cases, court hearings move slowly and it will cost you out of pocket until the agreement is changed. Consulting an attorney about your original divorce agreement, alimony payment plan and your financial circumstances can go a long way toward relieving the monthly burden without putting you in risk of jail time. Since 2013, the Florida legislature has been working to update the current system. For now, though, the only way to change your plan is to work through the courts on a modification.

Thinking you can simply skip a payment or that a spouse doesn't need it any more won't hold up. You may have contempt for your alimony payments, but don't let it turn into the more serious matter of contempt of court.

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