Alimony is money paid to a former spouse under a separation or divorce agreement. Whether alimony will be awarded and how much it will be is determined by factors such as the length of the marriage, the spouses’ relative incomes and the spouses’ financial prospects. For the receiver, payments are considered taxable income; for the payer, they are a deductible expense. Alimony should not be confused with child support. Alimony payments are specifically meant to support a former spouse, while child support payments are specifically intended to support one or more children from a dissolved relationship or marriage. Alimony is a court order, thereby making payment mandatory. Neither alimony nor child support payments may be discharged in bankruptcy. If alimony payments are not made as required, the person can be held in contempt of court for not paying. A court can take the necessary steps to compel the payments to be made. If held in contempt of court, the judge can choose either to pursue a civil or criminal proceeding against the person who refuses to pay. A civil proceeding is an attempt to get the person to pay rather than punishing the delinquent person. A criminal proceeding is used to punish the offender, which usually results in the imposition of jail time. If the reason behind nonpayment is due to an inability to pay, that argument can be advanced in a motion for modification of the alimony award. Whether you are owed alimony, or need legal help because of a failure to pay alimony, the attorneys at Phillips Law Firm, Inc. can help you.