Can You Go to Jail for Failing to Pay Spousal Support in Pennsylvania?

In 2009, a Pennsylvania judge freed H. Beatty Chadwick from the Delaware County prison where he served a 14-year sentence for failing to make alimony payments. This was a record sentence for a contempt charge.

Chadwick had failed to deposit a $2.5 million check into a court-controlled account, and the courts believed he hid the money. These facts most likely played into the way his case unfolded.

The case certainly points to the short answer…you can be held in contempt of court for failing to pay alimony, if your ex brings the matter before the court’s attention. You can be jailed for contempt of court. Therefore, failing to pay alimony can land you in jail.

Usually this isn’t what happens right away, however.

Many Remedies

People who are in jail have a hard time paying alimony. The courts have many other remedies to enforce compliance with support orders.

The first likely response would be orders to pay support and a fine. Income withholding might be the second step. A writ of execution might be a third step, wherein the judge seizes certain assets. This could include your bank account.

Before any of this happens you’d be ordered to appear for a “show cause” hearing. Keep in mind you must appear at that court hearing. Failure to show up could get a bench warrant issued for your arrest, because, again, you’d be held in contempt of court.

Your Options When You Can’t Pay Alimony

If you can’t pay alimony you don’t have to wait for the court to start initiating sanctions against you. If you can’t pay alimony because you have had a major life change you may be eligible for an alimony modification order. In fact, if you can’t pay your spousal support your very first step should be to contact your trusted family law attorney.

The longer you wait, the tougher your case gets.

If you’re facing an ongoing divorce case you may wish to keep these things in mind. Circumstances change, and sometimes those ongoing alimony payments can get rough. If you have the means, offering a lump sum might be the better part of valor.

See also: New Tax Laws Call for New Spousal Support Strategies.

Current Controversies: Alimony Reform

In Pennsylvania, it is possible to be saddled with an order to pay permanent alimony, which lasts until your ex dies or until he or she marries someone else. In many states, there is a massive push to end permanent alimony.

The push isn’t as strong in Pennsylvania as it is in other states, perhaps because temporary alimony orders are more common here. However, we could still see alimony reform becoming a big issue in the state. For example, Pennsylvania also allows alimony payees to take payors back to court for more alimony if they find their ex makes more money later on. This is one of the major issues driving alimony reform in other states.

South Carolina is one state where the battle is getting particularly heated, in part because South Carolina has been far more zealous about sending people to jail when they can’t pay.

Get Help With Your Alimony Problem Today

Don’t get into trouble you can’t dig yourself out of. Whatever your alimony problem, the attorneys at Sadek and Cooper can help. Just contact us for your free consultation today.

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