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What Is A "Support Order"?

A "support order" is an order of a court to pay alimony, child support, family support, separate maintenance, or spousal support. The support order is usually incident to an action for divorce, legal separation or paternity, and is generally paid on a monthly basis. The enforcement of a support order can differ from the enforcement of money judgment, since the support order is continuing in nature. Because a money judgment is generally paid only once, there is no concern about having to enforce future payments. Failure to pay a money judgment is generally not in contempt of a court order. However, failure to pay a support order can result in the judgment debtor found to be in contempt of a court order. Being in contempt of court to pay a support order can result in the imposition of a criminal sentence, and the debtor could be sent to prison.

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