New York courts sometimes grant spousal maintenance, which are payments from one spouse to another, in divorce cases when spouses are not able to provide for themselves. Once the court issues a maintenance order, the spouse owing support must comply by making payments.
Even so, appeal or requesting support modifications based on changing circumstances are options in spousal support cases. A spouse owing payments may feel maintenance is unjust or new circumstances may prevent payment, such as job loss or health problems. While a spouse can take legal actions appropriate for addressing support, simply failing to make payments―for whatever reason―is not a legal option. Spouses subject themselves to potential penalties when they fail to pay support:
* Failing to make combined payments of child and spousal support can result in New York driver’s license suspension under NY Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) 510.
* The court may hold spouses who fail to make support payments in civil contempt of court.
What is contempt of court?
New York Statutes, Article 19 Contempt, Section 770 explains contempt of court actions and also its relevancy in spousal support cases. Communicating with an ex-spouse or the court and explaining a hardship situation can go a long ways to prevent contempt actions. It is never a good idea to simply withhold payments and not provide an explanation.
In a contempt case, the court holds a hearing and the spouse held in contempt has the right to counsel and, if financially unable to afford a lawyer, the court can appoint counsel. When the court finds that the individual failed to pay alimony or spousal maintenance but has no property or income to comply with the terms of the support order, the judge may deny the petition to punish the spouse. If the court finds that the spouse has the means to pay support and willingly defied the order, the spouse may face jail time, fines, attorney fees, and still owe the spousal support.
Rely on an experienced New York divorce law firm
The Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis is a New York divorce law firm located in Buffalo, serving the Buffalo metropolitan areas and Western New York. For 28 years, divorce attorney Randy Margulis in Buffalo has helped clients successfully deal with spousal maintenance issues. Call 716.886.9600 or contact our Buffalo divorce law firm online to discuss your concerns.
As a Buffalo divorce lawyer for 28 years, I have devoted myself to solving the problems that affect families throughout the Buffalo metropolitan area and Western New York. As a family law attorney, I make it my goal to create a partnership of trust with my clients. People put their trust in me to handle cases that can potentially have a long-lasting impact on not only their lives, but the lives of their family as well.
Alexandra M. Rockwood is a Senior Associate Attorney with the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis & Associates and has been with the firm since early 2020. She primarily practices in the areas of matrimonial and family law, including divorce, child custody, and child support. Alexandra is a practicing matrimonial and family law attorney as…