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If you’re heading into a Pennsylvania divorce and you expect to either pay or receive spousal support, you will be interested in learning how the state enforces spousal support orders if a spouse falls behind on their payments.

As of July 1, 1990, all cases involving spousal support or child support automatically involve a wage attachment order, a court order that directs the obligor’s employer to deduct the support from the obligor’s paycheck and direct the money to the Domestic Relations Section. Wage attachments can also be used for an obligor’s pension, workers’ compensation benefits, and unemployment.

What if an Obligor Fails to Pay?

Sometimes payments are not made despite a wage attachment, or the obligor is self-employed or unemployed. When an obligor falls too far behind on their spousal support payments and they do not seek a downward modification from the court, the obligor is subject to an enforcement action, which may involve one or more tactics to collect on the arrears.

If an obligor has not made a payment (usually in 30 days), they will receive a notice in the mail reminding them of their duty to pay and the legal ramifications that will ensue if he or she continues to violate the court order. The consequences of not paying spousal support may include any of the following:

  • Judgement
  • Freezing of assets
  • Seizure of assets
  • Passport denial
  • Lottery winnings intercept
  • Income attachments
  • Contempt of court finding
  • Credit bureau reporting
  • Liens and a judgement
  • Driver license suspension
  • Suspension of recreational licenses (hunting and fishing)

Going into a divorce, it’s important to know the consequences of not paying spousal and child support. In either case, there are serious ramifications if an inability to pay is not quickly addressed. If you’re ordered to pay child or spousal support and you fall behind because you become disabled or lose your job, be sure to go back to court right away and ask for a downward modification. Otherwise, you will continue to owe the full amount and modifications are not retroactive.

Suggested Reading: Protecting Your Credit in Divorce

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