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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

What if a spouse refuses to pay after a divorce judgment?

When there is a divorce in California, it is common for one spouse to be ordered to pay the other spouse as part of a family law judgment. This could be for anything including property, support and more. Comparable to any debt, there can be an issue with the spouse who owes failing to pay or outright refusing to pay what is owed. The receiving spouse is often unsure of how to handle such a difficult dispute. There are, however, legal steps that can be taken to get what it owed. Understanding what the law says about the collection alternatives is an important factor. Having legal assistance is another.

First, it is critical to gather information as to the assets. Some can be pursued to get what is owed. There is a form to fill out for the debtor to appear in court and respond to questions regarding the financial situation. Should the debtor fail to appear, there can be a bench warrant and arrest.

Liens can be placed on real property and personal property. For real property, there must be an Abstract of Judgment for Civil and Small Claims. This can speed the process of getting paid. The personal property can have a lien and it can be confiscated by the sheriff to sell at a public auction so the payment can be made. This can include a vehicle.

Collection can come from the debtor's wages with an Earnings Withholding Order. The wages will be garnished for as much as 25% of what the debtor earns beyond the state minimum wage. The debtor's bank account can be pursued with a levy. The person must be aware of the bank the debtor uses and it is possible that he or she must know the account number.

Finally, there can be a Writ of Execution, also referred to a as Money Judgment. Law enforcement will be ordered to enforce it in their specific county. This is only applicable for six months. Often, it is needed to enforce the money judgment and is a frequently used tactic.

In a best-case scenario, the former spouse who owes will pay without disagreement and acrimony. Unfortunately, many couples have lingering issues that lead to continued contentiousness. Or there could be a personal reason that the paying spouse does not want to pay the judgment. Regardless, it is important to have legal advice from the beginning of the divorce to ensure the process is completed as ordered. That includes collecting on a judgment using these legal strategies.

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