Maryland governor Marvin Mandel was ordered yesterday in court to pay his former wife Barbara Mandel about $30,000 in back alimony.

It is a sum he can ill-afford, Mandel has claimed repeatedly, but Barbara Mandel went ahead with her suit to make a claim on his assets.

"The first thing we'll do is go try to find some assets and grab them." her attorney, Thomas C. Beach III, said in court. "Go into his house and grab some furniture, whatever."

Neither Mandel, his current wife Jeanne nor Barbara Mandel came to the hearing in Baltimore City Circuit Court. But Barbara Mandel said later that she would ask her attorney to attach the suspended governor's assets.

I don't care how many assets he has. I just want what's coming to me. Nothing extra. And I feel attorney should go ahead and do whatever he has to to get my share from the agreement," she said yesterday.

The separation and divorce settlement in dispute now was drawn up over four years ago. Then Marvin Mandel separted from his wife of 32 years and left the governor's mansion to get a divorce and marry the former Jeanne Dorsey.

Barbara Mandel agreed to leave the mansion and the governor's life only after she received a separation agreement partially guaranteed by the couple's old friend, millionaire Irvin Kovens.

This would have remained a very private, discreet settlement worth over a half a million dollars to Barbara had it not been for Mandel's conviction on charges of political corruption last year.

Kovens was also convicted, in part because the jury felt his guaranttee as well as his payment of some $135,000 in bonds for the divorce was a bribe made in return for Mande l's political favors.

So yesterday Koverns' attorney William F. Gately asked Judge Perrott to look at Kovens' defense in a new light. In one courtroom, Kovens' involvement in the divorce was used to convict him of a crime. In another he is being asked to honor this "criminal" contract. "The question is whether any part of the agreement is enforceable," Gately said.

Judge Perrott set his jaw and leaned toward Gately, asking, "Do you realize the magnitude of what you're saying?"

Yes, I do," answered Gately.

So did Barbara Mandel's attorney, who argued that to accept such a defense would be paramount to admission of guilt. "We're not bound by (the jury's verdict). In this court he's going to have to say that he's guilty," Beach argued.

Judge Perrott made no decision on Kovens' duty under the guarantee. That will be left to a jury empaneled for a trial that Beach said he will demand in an effort to force Kovens to pay at least $14,062 of the back divorce payments.

Kovens is vacationing in Florida and was not available for comment.

Mandel, with his wife, Jeanne, has set up a consulting firm in Arnold, Md., but neither answered the telephone there yesterday afternoon.

Friends say he hopes to break into the consulting business using his government skills as a calling card. It would be his only source of income since he was disbarred after his conviction.

Otherwise, the suspended governor has said repeatedly, he is broke. Last week, in court documents, he confirmed that officially while admitting that he does owe Barbara Mandel the back alimony.

He has also said that he is surviving on his wife, Jeanne's savings. During his political corruption trial, Mandel said he secured a $12,000 loan for Jeanne when her former husband failed to make child support payments.

Judge Perrott, reviewing Mandel's destitution, asked if Barbara Mandel wished to see "Governor Mandel in Jail?. IS that correct?"

"We feel with the money judgment we'd have more flexibility...we're not asking him to be failed."

The judge also ordered Mandel to designate Barbara Mandel the irrevocable beneficiary to a $100,000 life insurance policy on the governor, which waspart of the original divorce package.

Earlier, Kovens said he had met his initial guarantee and had no reason to pay what his friend could not afford. "What I guaranteed, I took care of," he said.

In an affidavit that has yet to be made public, according to Beach, Kovens contended that the "real basis for the guarantee is friendship. Kovens and Barbara Mandel and Kovens and Marvin Mandel were very close friends for a number of years. That point is simply not one of the contention in this court today."