I want to stop paying spousal support, what are my options?

Are you tired of paying spousal support?  If you are obligated to pay spousal support, you may be frustrated.  However, before you stop paying altogether you should read the following article to understand the consequences for failure to pay spousal support. Here are some important facts that experienced San Francisco Bay Area family law attorneys want you to know before you decide to willfully stop spousal support payments to your ex.  

(1) You May Be Able to Ask the Court For A Reduction of Payments

Some spousal support orders are modifiable by the Court. To determine if your spousal support order is modifiable you should look at your marital settlement agreement and read the language to see if your agreement has modifiable or non-modifiable support terms. 

In California, the Court can modify or terminate a spousal support order at any time, unless there is language in your marital settlement agreement that specifically precludes modification.

Examples of non- modifiable language that could preclude a change to the order include any of the following terms:  this agreement for spousal support cannot be modified; this agreement cannot be modified until ----- ; this is a non-modifiable agreement; or this agreement cannot be modified simply on the basis that the income or expenses of the parties has changed to a substantial degree.

A spousal support order is modifiable if there is a provision in your spousal support order that uses the words .. or upon court order. Those words usually mean that the support ordered can be changed if the moving party shows a material change in circumstances since the order was made. This change in circumstances cannot be a demotion or a child’s education decisions.  Instead the change must be such that the parties are in very different positions than they were at the time the order was made.

If you have experienced a change in circumstances – like caring for the health of a relative or a new spouse, you may be able to change your spousal support order. However, if the language of the order is non-modifiable – you need to understand the consequences of failing to pay.  

(2) Failure to Pay Could Result in Owing Even More To Your Ex Spouse.

Past due support orders accrue interest at 10% from the date of each installment becomes due. Family Code Section 155. This means that every payment you miss accrues interest.  Furthermore, support orders may be enforced like any other money judgment. This means that your ex may obtain a Writ of Execution and enforce a money judgment against your bank accounts, property, or even pension.  
This is even more important because courts do not have discretion to relieve the obligor of the interest and unpaid support cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. But let’s say you don’t care about the money, maybe you care about avoiding jail.

(3) Willful Failure to Pay Spousal Support Could Send You to Jail

If you have failed to pay support or paid only part of what you owe and you have the ability to pay, your ex spouse can file a motion for Contempt of Court. If you are found in Contempt because you have the ability to pay but have evaded payment, then you can expect to be fined and/or incarcerated unless you have a defense.

Contact a family law attorney now if you are facing a Contempt charge you can contact me at amanda@gordonfamilylaw.com.

Looking for more posts on spousal support:

My ex stopped paying child support - what can I do?
My child’s mother does not follow our visitation schedule, how can I get her to comply?
What to do if your ex does not pay support or follow visitation: how to file for Contempt.

What to do if your ex does not pay support or follow visitation: how to file for Contempt.

Has your ex continued to fail to pay child or spousal support? Are you worried that your custody and visitation schedule is being ignored without repercussions? We understand. A motion for contempt is available to both Parties in a case when one Party refuses to comply with an enforceable California family law court order.
If you need to file for Contempt, it is important to learn how the Family Court process works. Family Code Section 290.

Experienced San Francisco Bay Area Family Law attorneys like Gordon Family Law advise clients that contempt motions can be time consuming, expensive, and intricate. Due to the complexity of contempt, Gordon Family Law promotes dispute resolution and recommends Family Court Services mediation as a first step. However, not all parties are cooperative in mediation and you may desire to file a Contempt motion against your ex. 

What do you need to prove? In order to prove contempt, you must demonstrate: (1) issuance of a valid order that is clear, specific, and unequivocal; (2) knowledge of that order on the part of the party alleged to be in contempt;(3) the ability of that party to comply with the order; and, and (4) that party’s willful failure to do so.   

What forms do you need? You must complete an Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Contempt with Judicial Council Form FL-410 and a an Affidavit of Facts Constituting Contempt—Financial and Injunctive Orders with Judicial Council Form FL-411 or an Affidavit of Facts Constituting Contempt—Domestic Violence/Custody and Visitation with Judicial Council Form FL-412.  

How do you get a hearing? The Order to Show Cause form and Affidavit must be filed and served at least 21 calendar days before the date set for hearing.  The typical procedure is to deliver the OSC to the Judge and then return to that department to pick up the form and obtain a hearing date from the clerk. Next you must serve the other party. For contempt, service must be by personal service – and cannot be via mail or fax. 

What happens at the hearing? At the contempt hearing on the order to show cause for contempt, each party may be represented by counsel. If the other party is not represented, the court may advise your ex of his or her due process rights like the right to counsel and the Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination. Both sides are allowed to present oral testimony and evidence. However, there is no right to a jury trial for contempt in family law.   

What does contempt mean, what is the punishment? If your ex is found in Contempt of court for failure to comply with a court order under the Family Code, then he or she could be sent to jail or required to perform community service. The court will ask for future reports on the compliance of the orders. 
If your ex fails to appear at court, the court may issue a warrant for their arrest. This means that if your ex is pulled over for a traffic stop, they could be sent to jail without a hearing for contempt of court.  

Want to learn more?

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My ex spouse stopped my spousal support payments, what are my options?

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