Q: I went through a particularly acrimonious divorce four years ago and my ex-husband was very bitter about having to pay maintenance. Then in Summer 2020 he lost his job and stopped paying. I threatened to take him back to court as I knew he had a good payout. He then said he would start paying again and settle any back payments when he got another job. I agreed to give him some time and he got another job in May this year – a very good job. I hoped he would reinstate the payments and pay the back payments, but he hasn’t done so. I have heard he is planning to move away. Should I apply for an attachment of earnings order for what he owes?
A: There are several enforcement measures that can be put in place to deal with unpaid spousal maintenance. An attachment of earnings order is just one of them. Other options could include a warrant of control, a third-party debt order, a charging order or a judgment summons. However, as most of these measures require proof of the debtor’s financial situation, it is usual to make an application for the court to decide on the most appropriate course of action. Your ex-husband would need to produce documents to prove his position.
You would have an opportunity to provide the court with any details you have regarding your ex-husband’s income and/or assets and the court will take this into account when considering the most effective way to enforce the order and consider whether the back payments should be paid or not. It is important that you act quickly as it is much more difficult to enforce payment of arrears dating back more than twelve months. Enforcing spousal maintenance orders is complex and you should approach a local divorce solicitor to advise you on your position and the best way forward.
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