If my ex-husband is not paying either spousal or child support, what can I do?

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If my ex-husband is not paying either spousal or child support, what can I do?

My ex-husband is on disability. He hasn’t given me anything for the last month. How does that work? He should be giving me $1200 a month for spousal and child support. Also, we purchased a truck together about 2 years before we got a divorce; he is the co-signer on the vehicle. I let him keep it knowing that I wouldn’t be able to afford the payments. Now he has decided that he can’t afford it and wants me to take it back. I know that if I turn it in I will owe money. It just seems unfair. I need transportation but how can I trade it in for another car if he isn’t giving me anything?

Asked on July 19, 2011 under Family Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There are three different issues here:

1) Legally, you can force him to honor the terms of any divorce decreee or settlement. A decree is a court order; a settlement is an agreement or contract; both are enforceable by bringing a legal action. So if he has to pay you $1,200 per month and isn't, you can get a court order forcing him to--and if he still doesn't voluntarily, it may be possible to garnish wages or to hold him in contempt and jail him.

2) Practically, if he doesn't have money, you can't get it from him. For example, say that he only gets $1,000  a month--clearly, you can't get $1,200 a month from him. Also, some kinds of income, like many forms of disability payments, are protected from being garnished, so if his only income is protected income, you have no recourse against it.

You therefore should look to bring a legal action to force him to honor his obligations, but you have to be prepared that if he is in bad enough financial shape, it may be impossible to get what you are seeking from him.

3) As to the truck--if there is an agreement as to the truck, you can enforce that, but that maynot help you; for example, if the agreement is he has to make the payments and in return can use the truck, if he doesn't make the payments, all that might happen is it reverts to you. If you are both signors, if one of you (at least) doesn't pay on the loan or financing, the truck will be repossesses and you may be sued for the balance owing on it (and suffer damage to your credit); if he doens't have money or doesn't care, that doesn't provdie any leverage, however, against him to make him pay.


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