Q:

What if a spouse refuses to pay spousal support?

A:

The spouse that is receiving alimony can take legal action to initiate payment of alimony. Generally the spouse would have to file a petition for civil contempt, criminal contempt, or both. To prove the paying spouse is in contempt would require proof of an order to pay alimony and a violation of that order which is failure to pay. If the receiving spouse proves that the paying spouse has the ability to pay the alimony, but is choosing not to do so, then that is civil contempt. If the receiving spouse proves that the other spouse had the ability to pay at the time payments were due, but chooses not to do so, that is criminal contempt. In a criminal contempt situation, the spouse who failed to pay alimony can be jailed as punishment for failure to pay. In a civil contempt situation, the spouse owing alimony can be placed in jail until payments are made. A defense to civil contempt is that the spouse who failed to pay alimony does not have the current ability to pay alimony. A defense to criminal contempt is that the spouse who failed to pay alimony could not have paid at the time payments were due.

Q:

Can I get attorney’s fees when seeking alimony in Tennessee divorce law?

A:

In the Tennessee divorce process, the supported spouse can ask for temporary alimony for day-to-day living expenses, child support, and attorney’s fees. In many areas of the state, this is called a motion for pendente lite support.

Q:

How do I get attorney’s fees from my spouse?

A:

When a spouse does not have access to attorney’s fees as part of the divorce process, they can negotiate the attorney’s fees or file a motion with the court to order the other spouse to pay them. Some judges are reluctant to make significant awards of attorney’s fees. Other judges will try to make it fair and order the attorney’s fees be paid equally by both spouses.