Enforcing Child & Spousal Support Orders in New York

Family Court Orders Are Legally Binding

When going through a divorce, two of the most challenging aspects are child support and spousal support. Because they directly involve both parties' finances, making decisions on these matters can be incredibly stressful. Both people may be worried about their finances and how their divorce will impact their financial stability. This fear can make negotiating an uphill battle.

Working with an experienced attorney during this process can be incredibly helpful. In addition to helping you with paperwork and representing you in court, a skilled lawyer can also help protect your interests, guide you throughout the process, and answer any questions you may have.

If the court determines that alimony or child support is necessary, you must adhere to their order. Failure to do so can have significant consequences, including being held in contempt of court and a jail sentence.

Why Child Support Matters

Child support is vital to ensuring that children have the support and stability they need to flourish post-divorce. The goal of support is to ensure that both parents contribute equitably to the children's financial needs. Child support can be used for a wide range of expenses, including housing, food, clothing, educational expenses, and health care.

When determining child support, the courts will consider:

  • The custody arrangement
  • The ability of the noncustodial parent to pay support
  • Income levels of each parent
  • Educational expenses of the children
  • The age and health of the children
  • Any special needs of the children

Options for Enforcing Child Support Orders

If your ex is withholding child support, you have options. In New York, you would typically begin with administrative enforcement through the New York Child Support Agency. Administrative enforcement is handled out of court and is a good first step when dealing with non-payment of child support.

Before an administrative action is taken, the violating parent is sent a notice that outlines the process and gives them the chance to challenge the action. They are also notified of the consequences of failing to pay child support. Often, this is enough to resolve the issue. When administrative enforcement is unsuccessful, you have the option to file a petition in family court. Court enforcement is more severe, and failure to comply with court-based enforcement can result in suspension of professional licensing, being ordered into a work program, or jail time.

If you find that you cannot pay child support for some reason, you need to speak with an attorney right away. Do not just skip payments. A lawyer can help you determine if you have grounds to seek a child support modification.

Read our blog post on child support modifications for more information.

Why Spousal Support Matters

As part of the divorce process, the courts will determine if spousal support (also called spousal maintenance) is necessary. It is often mandated in situations where one spouse makes significantly more than the other or when one spouse gave up their career to stay home and take care of children and other domestic necessities.

Spousal support is decided by the New York Supreme Court during the divorce proceedings and can be for a set period or permanent. Spousal support aims to help the lower-earning spouse maintain their standard of living and ultimately help them achieve financial independence.

When determining spousal support, the courts utilize a calculator but may also consider:

  • The age and health of both parties
  • If one spouse was a stay-at-home parent
  • The ability of a stay-at-home partner to return to the workforce
  • The income level of each spouse
  • The earning potential of each person
  • The ability to pay spousal maintenance

The courts will also consider what custody and child support arrangements have been made and the couple's property division agreement.

How to Enforce a Spousal Support Order

It is not uncommon for someone who is ordered to pay spousal maintenance to withhold that maintenance for various reasons. In some cases, they may resent having to pay their ex alimony. In other cases, the person's ex cannot make the payments because they have lost a job or had some other significant change in their finances. Regardless of why your ex isn't paying, you should speak with an attorney to discuss your enforcement options.

While New York offers an online DIY support enforcement tool, it is recommended that you work with an experienced attorney to resolve your marital maintenance dispute. In some cases, your lawyer may be able to help you resolve your issue without going to court. However, should you need to take your former spouse to court for withholding court-ordered maintenance, you will want an experienced attorney by your side.

When enforcing a maintenance order, the courts may:

  • Issue a money judgment, mandating that your former spouse pay you the unpaid maintenance
  • Hold the violating party in contempt of court
  • Issue a wage deduction order

Do Not Be Intimidated Into Backing Down

Child support and spousal support orders are necessary for helping families move on after a divorce. When someone fails to make support payments or intentionally withholds support, everyone suffers. We know that taking your ex to court is a daunting task, but you do not have to do it alone. Letterio & Haug, LLP believes that everyone deserves committed legal counsel, and we are ready to help you fight for the support you are entitled to.

Check out this blog post for more information on what to do if your ex refuses to pay court-ordered spousal support.

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