Dear Carolyn,

My ex and I have a court order regarding alimony to be paid to me every month for a specific period of time. Between 2012 and 2015, he did not pay me any alimony.

In 2012 he lost his job and was on unemployment for a time.  He never adjusted the court order (i.e., never requested that the order be adjusted or altered due to his unemployed state).

I am aware that he had alternate income during those years.  I have some bank statements and know that several large sums of money were deposited over time.  During that time, he also stopped paying on the mortgage for about ten months, and it severely impacted my credit as I was also on the mortgage. Last year, I signed the house over to him and walked away with no money from the transfer.

He has said that he does not owe me any additional money once alimony runs out.

Is there a statute of limitations on charging him with contempt at this time?

Will this impact my ability to keep the same level of support that was agreed upon 10 years ago?  Will the figure be adjusted if he indeed makes more money or if I make more money or will it be based on the original court order?

Any help appreciated!!


Carolyn Answers,

While I haven’t seen the court order, a court order for alimony cannot be modified unless a motion to modify has been made. Assuming no motion has been made to modify, your ex has been accruing arrearages due you. Now there is a statute of limitations. Today is May 24, 2019, so you can go back for ten years.  Thus, claim alimony under your alimony order from 2012 (2012 is less than ten years) forward is not barred by a statute of limitations. See North Carolina General Statutes Section 1-47 for the ten-year statute of limitation. Also, see Elliott v. Estate of Elliott.

You do not say in your facts exactly when the alimony claim per the order runs out.

Your immediate course of action is to file for contempt for all missing payments and ask for your attorney fees. Do not delay.

If he is making more or your needs are more now than at the entry of the alimony order, then you can ask for a Motion to Modify your alimony upward from the date of the filing of your Motion forward. Now, he may file for a Motion to Reduce alimony, BUT that motion cannot affect the payments already due you.

Bottom line, the court should enforce the amounts owed to you from 2012 forward if you file the appropriate motion. The court might establish another payment schedule for the large sum that will be due, or perhaps he will have a 401k or other amount you can get for a lump sum.

Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to Ask Carolyn…at, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC  27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions.  Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation.