Diritti dei minori

Failing to Pay Alimony is a Crime: When and What Are the Risks

Not Paying Alimony: Legal and Criminal Consequences

It is not possible to not pay alimony or reduce its amount without first obtaining a revision from the judge.
While waiting for the revision, it is necessary to continue to pay the established amount to the beneficiary according to the court order and respecting the deadlines.
Failure to pay alimony constitutes a debt for which the beneficiary or the parent of the minor child can request collection, even through third-party seizure.

Moreover, not paying alimony can constitute a crime.
There are two relevant penal provisions: the violation of family support obligations and the violation of the court judgment.
The Cassation Court has often intervened on this issue, lately, identifying causes of non-punishability but also the exclusion thereof.
Not always failing to pay alimony constitutes a crime, depending on the motives and consequences of the act.

Alimony Payment: Legal Implications

In case of non-payment of alimony, several legally relevant perspectives arise for the obligated party.
The first possible offense to consider is the violation of family support obligations, as defined by article 570 of the Penal Code.
This offense occurs when one evades duties arising from parental and marital obligations, including material support.

Article 570 bis of the Penal Code provides for the same offense but concerning obligations arising after separation, divorce, or any custody-related issue.
However, there are prerequisites for the failure to pay alimony to constitute the offense of violating support obligations.

Specifically, all of the following elements must be verified: the non-fulfillment of the economic contribution for both primary (food, housing, medical expenses) and complementary needs (clothing, education, communication); the proven need of the beneficiary, meaning their documented and blameless inability to independently provide for their primary and complementary needs; the economic capacity of the obligated party and thus their unwillingness to pay what is due.

The offense occurs only when the obligated spouse or parent willingly avoids payments, despite having the financial means, depriving the ex-spouse or children of the means of subsistence.
It is important to note that the need of the beneficiary is always presumed for minor children, even if others provide for their sustenance.

Outside of minor children, who are not inherently able to generate income, the need must be proven.
Both the spouse and adult children (without severe disabilities, otherwise the same presumption principle applies as for minors) must demonstrate their inability to provide for their own support.

This does not only translate into the actual inability to work but into a concrete lack of economic resources to meet primary life needs without alimony.
The Court of Cassation recently reiterated this principle, even considering the lack of necessity for minor children.

For instance, if grandparents financially support grandchildren to compensate for the lack of contribution from the parent (as often happens), the need of minors concerning parental obligations remains the same, and so does the criminal scenario.

Legal Consequences and Risks

In the event that non-payment of alimony is a crime, the penalties established by articles 570 and 570 bis of the Penal Code apply, namely imprisonment for up to 1 year or a fine ranging from €103 to €1,032.
There is also the offense of violating the court judgment if done voluntarily, punishable under article 388 of the Penal Code with imprisonment up to 3 years or a fine from €103 to €1,032.

Regardless of the criminal aspects, the failure to pay alimony allows the beneficiary (or their guardian) to take civil action to obtain forced execution of the provision (including possible seizure of wages or pensions).
Any change in alimony requires the judge’s approval, eventually requesting a refund of previously paid alimony.

Author: Hermes A.I.

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