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When two homeowners get divorced, either the real estate is:  
  • Refinanced (remortgaged) by the spouse that was awarded the house, or
  • The original mortgage loan remains in place with both spouses as borrowers.

My Ex-Spouse Failed to Pay The Mortgage

If as part of your divorce, the original mortgage loan remains unchanged and the court ordered your ex-spouse to make the mortgage payments but he has failed to do so, you can file a motion for contempt of court against your ex-spouse in Domestic Relations Court.  The court can find him in contempt for his failure to comply with the court's order and can punish him with a fine or even jail time.  However, it is important to understand that because the court has no jurisdiction over the mortgage company, it cannot stop a foreclosure.  The only parties to the divorce were you and your ex-spouse and those are the only two parties the court has any control over.

But the court may order your ex-spouse to negotiate an extension of time or a settlement with the lender so you can stay in the home as well as ordering him to pay the past-due payments.  The court could also order the sale of the home.  If this happens, the money from the sale remaining after the mortgage and other costs are paid can be divided as part of a contempt sanction.

or example, the court could order your ex-spouse to compensate you for the losses you suffered because of his failure to make the court-ordered mortgage payments, including but not limited to, money damages for the missed mortgage payments or, if you lose the house, the cost of alternative housing and related out-of-pocket expenses.  The court can also order your ex-spouse to pay your attorney’s fees and the court costs

Nevertheless, if your ex-spouse has no assets or money, putting him in jail is not going to prevent or delay the foreclosure and you may eventually be forced out of your home, because if the mortgage is unpaid, the lender can foreclose no matter what Domestic Relations Court does.

At this point you should
make an appointment with a housing counselor to explore refinancing the house or whether a program such as Save the Dream Ohio can help out with the mortgage payment.  The complicating factor is that if you still have your original mortgage and both you and your ex-spouse are co-borrowers then your ex-spouse would have to cooperate on all program applications and modifications of the mortgage.

My Ex-Spouse Failed to Pay The Spousal Support

If your ex-spouse would pay the support, then you could pay the mortgage.  But the options below to enforce your support order are not your only alternative.  Like any homeowner struggling to pay the mortgage, you may be eligible for programs such as Save the Dream Ohio to help with your mortgage payments or you may be able to refinance the loan to reduce your monthly payments.  See a housing counselor to explore your options.

You or the county Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) can enforce your spousal or child support order against your ex-spouse by filing a motion for contempt (sometimes called a motion to show cause) against your ex-spouse.  If the court concludes that your ex-spouse did not obey court orders, the court may impose a fine and/or jail sentence or the court may give him an opportunity to avoid the punishment by making past-due payments within a certain time period.
  In addition, the court can order your ex-spouse to pay all court costs, reasonable attorney fees and interest.

You or the county CSEA can also file a motion asking the court to enter a money judgment for the amount of your ex-spouse's arrearage and enforce that judgment by attaching, garnishing, seizing and/or selling his assets to collect on the judgment.  Furthermore, the county CSEA can employ one or more of the following enforcement tools to enforce your support order and collect any unpaid support:

  • Issue an income-withholding order against your ex-spouse’s salary, wages, Social Security benefits, unemployment compensation benefits, or other source of income;

  • Require the posting of a cash bond to secure payment of his support obligations;

  • Issue a seek-work order if he is unemployed or underemployed requiring him to look for work;

  • Issue a deduction order against his bank account to force the withdrawal of funds for payment of his support obligation;

  • Prosecute your exspouse for criminal nonpayment of support (either a felony or misdemeanor depending upon how many support payments have been missed).

  • Suspend your ex-spouse’s driver’s license;

  • Suspend your ex-spouse’s occupational or professional license (over 70 professions and occupations are licensed);

  • Suspend your ex-spouse’s hunting or fishing license;

  • Intercept your ex-spouse’s federal or state income tax refund and use those funds to pay your support arrearage;

  • Suspend your ex-spouse’s passport if the arrearage exceeds $5,000;

  • Place an administrative lien against his house, land, business, or personal property; and/or

  • Report your ex-spouse’s past-due support to a consumer reporting agency (credit bureau).

If the county CSEA does not take prompt and effective action to enforce your child or spousal support order, you should contact your local legal aid office or request a “state hearing” at the county Department of Job and Family Services office to challenge the CSEA’s inaction or untimely action.


This website provides general legal information and not legal advice.  The law is complex and changes frequently. 
Before you apply any general legal information to a particular situation, consult an attorney. 
If you cannot afford an attorney call 1-866-Law-Ohio (1-866-529-6446) or visit OhioLegalHelp.org for your closest legal aid office.