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Failure to Pay Alimony
In Georgia, upon the completion of a divorce, if the presiding judge determines that alimony or child support is warranted, the court will include an order to pay alimony and/or child support in the Final Order and Decree of Divorce. Once an order of the court has been issued concerning the payment of child support or alimony, the party who has been ordered to make those payments must comply or risk being subject to penalties. One of the most common penalties levied by a court in response to a failure to pay child support and alimony in Georgia is a contempt citation.
According to Georgia law, contempt is defined as the willful refusal of a party to comply with a court order.
Thus, for a court to find a parent in contempt, the court must find that 1) a judgment or order has been previously entered with the court concerning the issues and 2) the charged party is in noncompliance with that order. Kent v. Kent, 265 Ga. 211 (1995); In re K.D, 272 Ga.App. 803 (2005). Alternatively, because a parent or an ex-spouse must willfully disobey a court’s order to be found in contempt, if a parent or an ex-spouse shows that the non-payment is not willful he or she may successfully defend herself against a contempt action. Additionally, parent or ex-spouse who owes alimony or child support payments may also purge or rid themself of a contempt action by paying all sums due and owing or otherwise complying with the court’s order. Edwards v. Edwards, 224 Ga. 224 (1968).
Generally, the Superior Court that rendered the child support or alimony order has the exclusive authority to enforce that order through a contempt action. With this being said, if you have been awarded child support or alimony and your ex-spouse or co-parent has failed to comply with the court’s order, you must file a motion for contempt with the court that originally entered the initial child support or alimony order in order to initiate a contempt action. See Connell v. Connell, 222 Ga. 765 (1966).