If you are a recipient of spousal maintenance, commonly known as alimony, it is not uncommon for the obligor to stop paying. The obligor’s income may have decreased or he/she may have just simply decided to not pay. Regardless of the reason, without a court order that orders a change to the amount of maintenance to be paid, the obligor has a legal obligation to continue paying at the ordered amount.
So, what can you do if the obligor willfully stops paying? An attorney’s first step is to send a letter to the obligor. Often times, when the obligor realizes that the recipient will pursue the unpaid maintenance through an attorney and that the obligor has a good chance of having to pay for those attorneys’ fees, the obligor will then pay the unpaid balance and continue to make timely payments. If amicable attempts to get the obligor to pay are unsuccessful, you can seek the involvement of the court.
Your first option is to file a motion for contempt, which provides the option for the biggest penalties, including even potentially jail time. Alternatively, Minnesota law allows you to file an Affidavit of Default and Notice of Entry and Docketing of Maintenance Judgment. This option is typically less expensive, but it lacks the enforcement mechanisms that accompany a contempt motion. Under this option, after the obligor receives the Notice, he/she has twenty days to either pay the unpaid spousal maintenance or request a hearing to contest the amount of unpaid spousal maintenance. If the amount goes uncontested and unpaid after those twenty days, the maintenance recipient has a judgment against the obligor and then may proceed with collecting on that judgment.