Q. My ex-husband stopped paying alimony. I know you previously wrote about how to file a complaint for contempt. However, my ex left the country. So, what happens when your ex establishes residency in another country? Do I have any recourse or does he just get to stop paying without consequence?
A. He does not just get away without consequences but the enforcement and collection process just became more complicated. In large part the answer depends on where he went. Some countries have bi-lateral treaties with the US. So, for example, if he went to the UK, you would contact a family law attorney there, provide them with a certified copy of the judgment requiring your ex to pay alimony and ask for registration and enforcement.
If he has gone to a more remote location or a country whose laws are significantly different from ours, you will have more difficulty getting any traction. But, even then all is not lost.
You should still file a complaint for contempt here. If he has gone to a country which is a signatory to the Hague Convention on civil service abroad, you can serve him with the contempt summons and it is up to him if he appears or not. If you cannot easily serve him, file a motion asking the court to allow you to serve him via DHL, email, Whatsapp and/or even social media direct messaging. At the contempt hearing ask for a judgment of contempt even if he fails to appear so that you can go after his assets. If you can prove he has assets here such as real estate, if he does not pay the judgment within a reasonable time, you can get the court to order an attachment on his assets. Then, if he still does not pay, you can get an order to sell and deduct what he owes you from the sale proceeds.
If your ex is still employed by a company with offices in the US, you can ask the court to order his wages be garnished and you can serve orders on the US branch of the company.
If he has historically received tax refunds, you can also try to get an order to garnish any tax refund he may receive – especially on the state tax refund side. Be sure to ask for legal fees and interest every time you appear before a judge.
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