Child and spousal support are sometimes ordered when a marriage is dissolved. When that happens, the dissolution decree will specify the amount and terms of payment. As time passes, however, the ordered payments may not be made on a timely basis or for extended periods.
If you are the payer, the amount you owe will accumulate quickly and accrue interest while you are not paying. If you are the payee, you will have to begin thinking about how to get the money you are owed.
The reasons for non-payment can be many. Most often it is due to the loss of employment. In that case, it is best if the two parties can come to an agreement about how to handle the temporary interruption in payments. On the other hand, if the failure to pay is intentional on the payer’s part, legal maneuvers will have to be implemented to force the resumption of payments as well as the amount of missed payments.
In New Mexico, the law has a built-in mechanism to discourage the failure to make child and spousal support payments. Section 40-4-13 of the New Mexico Statutes provides that a decree ordering such payments constitutes a lien against real estate owned by the payer. The law requires that the decree be recorded in the office of the county clerk in each county where property is owned. A copy of the recorded notice will be sent to the payer.
As a result of the lien being recorded, a payer spouse knows that failure to make payments will, in effect, reduce the equity he/she has in his/her property. If the house is sold, the lien would be satisfied just the same as would the outstanding mortgage loan. Similarly, it would reduce the amount the payer could obtain in a home equity loan. This serves as a significant incentive to those ex-spouses who own property and owe child or spousal support to keep current with payments.
Notwithstanding this feature of New Mexico law, payees still have the right to pursue the same legal remedies as payees whose former spouses do not own property. The court may order withholding of wages, appropriate other assets to satisfy the debt, or even jail the payer for contempt of court. Property-owning payers, at some point, however, may face a court order to sell property to satisfy a seriously delinquent child or spousal support debt.
As you might imagine, circumstances that interrupt the payment of child or spousal support can be complicated. The effect can be substantial for both the payer and the payee, and each case is different, warranting an evaluation by a lawyer with extensive experience in New Mexico family law. For help with your case, contact the Lightning Legal Group today by email or telephone: (505) 247-2390.