When your former spouse has missed alimony payments, you can take steps to enforce the alimony award. Several forms of relief may be granted if you are successful.
Motion for Contempt/Enforcement
You – the petitioner – must first file a Motion for Contempt or Enforcement to enforce your alimony award. The motion must include the date of the alimony order and explain how your former spouse – the respondent – failed to comply with it. You must then sign the motion before a notary public or deputy court clerk, and file it with the clerk of the circuit court.
The motion must then be personally served on your former spouse. Service can be completed by hand delivery or by using a sheriff or process server. Although you can mail the forms, you run the risk that "the court in certain circumstance may not consider mailing to be adequate notice," according to the Florida court system's website.
The next step in enforcing an alimony award is a hearing. You must prove at the hearing that the respondent has not complied with the alimony award. After you've established this, he or she will have an opportunity to show an inability to comply with the order. If the respondent is able to establish inability to comply and is, in fact, behind on alimony payments, but he or she is able to work or participate in job training, the court may take additional steps in enforcing alimony. The court may order the respondent to find a job, file reports with the court detailing his or her attempts to find a job, notify the court of any employment, income, or property he or she obtains, or participate in employment training or placement programs.
Otherwise, if the respondent is unable to establish an inability to comply with the order, he or she may be found in civil contempt.
Several forms of relief may be issued if your motion is successful, including enforcing the original order or awarding a monetary judgment. When a party has failed to comply with a court order, they may also be charged with civil contempt. In a Motion for Contempt/Enforcement, the petitioning party may request that coercive or compensatory fines be levied if the responding party is found in civil contempt. A coercive fine is imposed if the responding party does not comply with the court order. A compensatory fine is to compensate the petitioner or the court for a legally recognizable harm. In an alimony enforcement scenario, the harm is failure to pay alimony.
Other Forms of Relief
The judge may also award costs and expenses in a successful case for contempt or enforcement, or relief other than contempt or enforcement. Wage garnishment is a common remedy in alimony cases. When the judge orders wage garnishment to satisfy outstanding alimony, the court issues a writ of garnishment to the party's employer pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 61.12 (2014). A writ of garnishment requires that the employer garnish a portion of the party's salary "on a periodic and continuing basis for so long as the court may determine."
Filing a motion for contempt/enforcement of alimony is the first step in enforcing your alimony award. Alimony enforcement can be a complex process, so it is wise to seek legal counsel. process.