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Failure to pay alimony may result in finding of contempt

Being held in contempt of court is a serious legal situation. However, many Arizona residents may not know that there are two forms of contempt that they may face in the judicial system: criminal and civil. While criminal contempt generally relates to creating disturbances in a courtroom, civil contempt relates to failing to follow an order issued by a court.

When a person is bound to pay their ex-spouse alimony by a court order and the payer decides not to stay current on their payments, they may face civil contempt. Individuals who receive alimony payments do not have the same enforcement tools to get their payments as do individuals who collect child support on behalf of their kids. For example, alimony payments may not be collected through wage garnishments on payers' incomes.

As such, civil contempt may be a way to compel a payer to become current on their payments so that the recipient has the money they were ordered to receive by their divorce court. The penalties that a person can face for failing to comply with their court order and being found in contempt of civil court can include time in jail as well as fines for their delinquencies.

While some individuals deliberately choose to withhold alimony payments from their exes, others find themselves in difficult financial situations where they cannot make payments due to having insufficient money. When payments are not possible due to financial instability, payers of alimony may wish to seek modifications to their outstanding court orders. A modification may allow a payer to establish new payment terms and help them avoid the potentially damaging consequences of civil contempt.

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