Enforcing Alimony Payments in Florida: What to Do When Your Ex-Spouse Doesn’t Pay

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a critical financial lifeline for many individuals following a divorce. However, when an ex-spouse fails to make these court-ordered payments, it can create significant financial hardship. In Florida, there are several legal remedies and enforcement options available to ensure that alimony payments are made. This guide will walk you through the steps to take if your ex-spouse misses alimony payments and how a Tampa alimony lawyer can assist you in enforcing your rights.

Legal Remedies and Enforcement Options

When an ex-spouse doesn’t pay alimony, the recipient has several legal options to enforce the court order. Florida law provides various remedies to ensure compliance and to hold the non-paying spouse accountable.

1. Contempt of Court

One of the most common enforcement mechanisms is filing a motion for contempt. Contempt of court occurs when an individual willfully disobeys a court order. If your ex-spouse fails to pay alimony, you can file a motion with the court to hold them in contempt. A Tampa alimony lawyer can assist in preparing and filing this motion.

How Contempt of Court Works

Filing the Motion: The first step is to file a motion for contempt with the court that issued the original alimony order. The motion should detail the missed payments and request that the court enforce the order.

Court Hearing: A hearing will be scheduled where both parties can present their case. The non-paying spouse must explain why they have not complied with the order.

Court Decision: If the court finds the non-paying spouse in contempt, it can impose penalties, including fines, wage garnishment, and even jail time until the arrears are paid.

2. Wage Garnishment

Another effective enforcement tool is wage garnishment. This process involves directly withholding a portion of the non-paying spouse’s wages to satisfy the alimony debt. Florida law allows for wage garnishment to ensure that alimony payments are made.

Steps for Wage Garnishment

File for Wage Garnishment: You must file a request with the court to issue an order for wage garnishment.

Employer Notification: Once the order is issued, the non-paying spouse’s employer will be notified to withhold the specified amount from their paycheck.

Payment Distribution: The withheld wages will be sent directly to you to cover the missed alimony payments.

3. Property Liens

If your ex-spouse owns property, you may be able to place a lien on their property for the amount of unpaid alimony. This legal claim ensures that you will be paid when the property is sold.

How to Place a Property Lien

Obtain a Court Order: You need a court order to place a lien on the property.

Record the Lien: The lien must be recorded with the county recorder’s office where the property is located.

Enforce the Lien: When the property is sold, the lien ensures that the owed alimony is paid out of the proceeds.

4. Seizure of Assets

In some cases, the court may order the seizure of the non-paying spouse’s assets to satisfy alimony arrears. This can include bank accounts, investments, and other valuable assets.

Steps for Asset Seizure

File for Asset Seizure: You must file a motion with the court requesting the seizure of specific assets.

Court Order: If the court grants the motion, an order will be issued to seize the assets.

Asset Liquidation: The seized assets can then be liquidated to cover the unpaid alimony.

5. Suspension of Licenses

Florida law also allows for the suspension of various licenses, including driver’s licenses and professional licenses, as a penalty for failing to pay alimony. This measure can be a strong incentive for the non-paying spouse to comply with the court order.

How License Suspension Works

File a Motion: You can file a motion with the court to request the suspension of the non-paying spouse’s licenses.

Court Hearing: A hearing will be held to determine if license suspension is appropriate.

License Suspension: If the court agrees, the non-paying spouse’s licenses will be suspended until they comply with the alimony order.

Steps to Take if Alimony Payments are Missed

If your ex-spouse misses alimony payments, taking prompt action is crucial. Here are the steps you should follow to enforce alimony payments in Florida:

1. Document Missed Payments

Keep detailed records of all missed payments, including dates and amounts. This documentation will be essential when presenting your case to the court.

2. Communicate with Your Ex-Spouse

Before taking legal action, attempt to communicate with your ex-spouse to resolve the issue. There may be a valid reason for the missed payments that can be addressed through negotiation or mediation.

3. Consult a Tampa Alimony Lawyer

A Tampa alimony lawyer can provide valuable guidance and represent your interests in court. They can help you understand your legal options and the best course of action to take.

4. File a Motion with the Court

If informal communication fails, the next step is to file a motion with the court to enforce the alimony order. This can include a motion for contempt, wage garnishment, or other enforcement mechanisms.

5. Attend the Court Hearing

Be prepared to attend a court hearing where you will present your case. Your Tampa alimony lawyer will assist in presenting evidence and arguments to support your claim for enforcement.

6. Follow Up on Court Orders

After the court issues an order for enforcement, ensure that the order is followed. This may involve coordinating with employers for wage garnishment or working with authorities for asset seizure or license suspension.


Enforcing alimony payments in Florida can be challenging, but there are several legal remedies and enforcement options available. By documenting missed payments, attempting to communicate with your ex-spouse, consulting a Tampa alimony lawyer, and taking legal action through the courts, you can ensure that your rights are protected and that alimony payments are enforced.

If you find yourself in a situation where your ex-spouse is not paying alimony, don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance. A skilled Tampa alimony lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of alimony enforcement and work towards a resolution that ensures your financial stability.

Tampa Divorce Lawyer

Tampa Divorce Lawyer

If you have inquiries about prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, or if you need expert legal assistance in other areas of Family Law in Tampa, Florida or Asheville, North Carolina—including high asset divorces—please don’t hesitate to reach out to Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group for a detailed discussion of your case. Damien is available for contact via phone at 813-428-3400 or by email at [email protected].

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