Articles & News

We'll always have Paris (not!): Enforcing child support orders

Los Angeles Daily Journal
January 24, 2012

By Ira M. Friedman and Abby B. Friedman

Got your attention, didn't it.

In the movie "Casablanca," Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund may always have fond memories of Paris. If you owe child support arrearages, you may not have fond memories of Paris, let alone London, rome, Athens, Berlin, or for that matter, any country or city outside the United States.

At the present time, an individual who is entitles to receive child support can retain the services of a private attorney to enforce child support. With the change in the law, an individual can also retain the services of their local country Child Support Services Department to enforce child support orders, including arrearages. if someone wants to retain the services of the department while still having a private attorney, it is necessary for the private attorney to file and serve Judicial Council for FL-645 "notice to local child support agency of intent to take independent action to enforce support order" pursuant to Family Code Section 17404.

There are many remedies that the department makes available to enforce support arrearages and for collation of current child support, some of which are used extensively and some of which are rarely used.

While the remedies available to private attorney are also available to the Child Support Services Department, certain remedies are exclusive to the department, and are not available to private attorneys. Family Code Section 17520(a)(5) lays the groundwork for these exclusive remedies.

In particular, the Child Support Services Department can use the suspension of: a driver's license; licenses to practice law, medicine, psychiatry, physiology; general contractor's license; insurance license; real estate license; and accounting and any other profession that requires a license to be issued by the state.

Additionally, 42 U.S.C. Section 664 and 26 U.S.C. Section 6402 authorize federal tax refunds intercepts by Child Support Services Department. There is a state tax refund procedure that the department can use, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 666(a) and Code of Civil Procedure Sections 708.730, 708.780 and 708.795, to intercept state tax refunds for support owed. Note that by filing IRS Form 8379 (injured spouse claim and allocation), this may keep the spouse from having an intercept on federal tax refund if the spouse is not responsible for the support obligations.

The chances of winning the California State Lottery are almost the same. And if you should be so lucky as to win and think its time to splurge on something you want and ignore the support arrearage you owe - think again. Government Code Section 12419.5 and Code of Civil Procedure Sections 708.730 and 708.795 allow these winnings to be taken for support arrearages. Further, if services are performed for the state, the same rules apply as with lottery winnings.

"The Child Support Services Department is able to uncover information on bank accounts by way of their access to records unavailable to private attorney, and can levy on those accounts."

The Child Support Services Department is able to uncover information on bank accounts by way of their access to records unavailable to private attorney, and can levy on those accounts. if the private attorney knows where the bank account is located, then he or she too can levy not that account.

if you are receiving unemployment benefits or state disability benefits, these also may be taken toward support owed. Funds belonging to a personal injury settlement or workers' compensation benefits (family Code Sections 17510) may also be taken.

42 U.S. Code Section 652(k) allows the U.S. Department of State to both suspend and prevent the issuance of a passport to anyone who is in the arrears over the sum of $5,000. Once the Child Support Services Department supplies the information to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who in turn supplies the information to the State Department, there is no "wiggle room" in terms of working out a payment plan with the department.

In 2009, 111 H.R. 2723 was introduced in the House of Representatives to provide an exemption that allows an individual otherwise ineligible to travel outside the United States, to do so for employment purposes in order to pay child support arrearages. As of Dec. 1, 2009, this law awaits "further action," which to a layman means that it died in committee.

There have been challenges to 111 H.R. 2723. On such challenge was the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Eunique v. Powell (2002) 281 F.3d. 940. Here, the court affirmed the ranting of summary judgment against the mother, concluding that, "[Eudene] Eunique has failed to live up to a most basic civic and even moral responsibility: the provision of support to her own children. yet she has brought this action because she feels that her right to the pleasures and benefits of international travel has been improperly curtailed. Unfortunately for her, Congress has decreed that her duties to her children must take precedence over her intuitional travel plans. It has ordered her priorities for her…we hold that, without violating Eunique's Fifth Amendment freedom to travel internationally, Congress (and the State Department) can refuse to let her have a passport as long as she remains in substantial arrears on her child support obligations."

The 9th Circuit continued: "There can be no doubt hat the failure of parents to support their children is recognized by our society as a serious offense against morals and welfare. It is the very kind of problem that the [L]egislature can address. The end result of the Court battle was that Congress could refuse to let Eunique have a passport as long as she was in substantial arrears on her child support obligation and that did not violate the Fifth Amendment freedom to travel internationally."

The Child Support Services Department, however, can work out payment plans as to arrearages on most hinges other than passport suspension. If you represent the obligor, bring all of your client's financial infuriation so you are completely transparent. Another solution may be a payment plan that increases the amount your client will pay each month over a period of time.

The information about Child Support Services Department and that of a private attorney for the collection of child support due is only part of the collation of arrears procedures and practices. This article is not intend as a full explanation, but rather as a brief guideline.

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