Enforce Wisconsin Alimony Orders

How to hold an ex-spouse in contempt of court if alimony goes unpaid.

If one either you or your ex-spouse is found to be violating the marital settlement agreement, the person violating the order can be held in contempt of court. This type of action can result in fines and/or jail time.

Depending on the circumstances the offending party may also be required to reimburse attorney fees and other damages. In instances where one party is found in contempt of court, fines are typically levied instead of jail time as the violations don't warrant this type of punishment.

The first step in rectifying a situation where one party is violating the agreed alimony or family support order is filing a contempt of court action. Beginning this is easy if you already have an attorney. If you don't have an attorney, always remember that any quality family attorney can help get a resolution to problems like these fairly quickly.

How to collect unpaid alimony in Wisconsin?

Spouses who have been awarded custody have the right to seek enforcement of any unpaid amounts. Alimony awards can be temporary, permanent, for reimbursement, or for a lump-sum payment.  The two types of enforcement methods that are often used are contempt of court motions and wage garnishments.

enforce wisconsin alimony orders

Legal enforcement of alimony awards in Wisconsin

The family court can order that alimony payments be made at any time the court thinks is right. A family court judge can order that real estate be designated as security for any alimony payment obligations. It can also require that the payor spouse provide other forms of security.

If a spouse is found in default of any alimony payment, the Wisconsin family judge takes one of the following steps:

  1. The judge can order that any outstanding orders or judgments be paid.
  2. The judge can order that securities be sold to make the payments.
  3. Enter a contempt of court order.
  4. Order wage garnishment

What is a contempt order?

The spouse who isn't getting paid can file a contempt motion. The judge will then set a hearing date. At the hearing, the spouses can state their positions. If the judge finds that a spouse intentionally failed to pay the alimony order, it can order a spouse be sent to jail until the past due amount is paid. The judge can also order that the uncooperative spouse pay fines and legal fees.

A spouse who wants to get paid their alimony award should hire an experienced family lawyer. Contempt of court cases are not simple. They must be done correctly. Judges don't like to send people to jail unless they really must.

What is a wage garnishment?

A wage garnishment is an order that the court sends to the employer of the non-paying spouse. The order will authorize the employer to pay a part of the employee's paycheck to the court. The court will then make the alimony payment to the other spouse.

Lump-sum settlements

A practical way to avoid worrying about whether a spouse will make the alimony payments is to enter into a lump-sum settlement. In a lump-sum settlement, the spouses agree that one spouse can make one large payment instead of making smaller regular payments for years and years.


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