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.