Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Liens and Forclosures: An Underutilized Child Support Enforcement Tool?

Texas attorneys may be missing out on a great opportunity to enforce child support orders through the use of liens and foreclosures.

It is quite galling to someone struggling to meet the basic needs of their child because ordered child support is not being paid, to see the obligor enjoying the use of his lavishly furnished lakeside vacation home complete with jet skis.  The Texas Family Code provides for liens and seizures of certain property but many Texas attorneys do not attempt this. The reluctance of many attorneys to consider the seizure of personal assets of the obligor may be from them incorrectly thinking that the exemptions provided in the Texas Constitution would make finding non-exempt property all but impossible.

However, child support is an expressed exception to the property exemptions of Property Code Sections 42.001 and 42.002.

In the case of Dryden v. Dryden, 97 S.W.3d 869 (Tex.App--Corpus Christi 2003, pet. denied), a Sherrif's sale was ordered for failure to pay child support and the Court of Appeals approved the sale of items including a second vehicle, jewelry, athletic equipment, sporting goods, and furniture.

If a seizure is sought, it is important for the attorney enforcing a Texas child support order to first file either an abstract of judgment or a child support lien notice.  Only then should a Writ of Execution be filed.

Texas Family Code 157.311-331 details the procedures of filing a lien.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Can Parents Agree to Reduce/Settle Child Support Arrearages On Their Own?

YES, but only after the arrears has been reduced to a final written judgment of the court.

This relieves the pressure on the Custodial Parent/Obligee from having to agree to a reduced judgment on past due support out of desperation to receive some financial relief immediately. It offers the full weight of Enforcement mechanism of the Family Code to the Custodial Parent/Obligee.

“ Due to the financial hardships so frequently encountered by the custodial parent following divorce, the failure of the former spouse to pay court-ordered child support puts the custodial parent in a very difficult position. If the non-custodial parent offers to pay a portion of child support arrearages in settlement of the entire amount due, the custodial parent may be persuaded to accept the offer due to present financial difficulties and the possibility of further delay and expense in collecting the unpaid amount.” Williams v Patton

When drafting a contempt order, the judgment must first be addressed THEN a release of a set dollar amount and THEN a new judgment for the reduced amount (if any) with order to pay.

See Williams v. Patton, 821 S.W.2d 141 (1991)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Can a Court Use A Parent's Immigration Status to Deny Joint Custody?

Probably not.

Parents are generally always named Joint Managing Conservators (JMC) unless one parent can provide evidence that proves that a parent's immigration status has a material, adverse effect on their ability to parent.

In the recent case of Turrubiartes v. Olvera, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 1017 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] Februrary 6, 2018)(opinion on rhr'g)(Cause No. 01-16-00322-CV). A father argued that the main reason he should be name sole managing conservator of his three children was that he was a U.S. Citizen and the mother was not. Father said he feared that the mother would be stopped while driving the kids in Texas and be deported.

The lower court granted Sole Managing Conservatorship to the father. In it's findings of fact on the ruling, nine out of the thirteen factors the court said it considered had to with the mother's immigration status.

The Court of Appeal for the 1st District overturned the ruling. They pointed out that "immigration status" is not expressly listed in TFC 153.134(a) as one of the factors that a court may use in overcoming the presumption that parents should be named Joint Managing Conservators. The COA said the father's fear of the mother being deported while driving the children was resolve by her being ordered by the lower court to find a licensed driver for the children. The Court of Appeals concluded that father's other points for him being named sole managing conservator were not sufficient to overcome the joint managing presumption.

This is not the last we will hear of immigration status being used as a weapon in a custody case. With the recent Federal Court ruling upholding punitive measures used against so called "sanctuary cities", the political winds still seem to be blowing hard against illegal immigrants in Texas. It should be noted that in this case the COA seemed to ignore the catch all statutory factor under 153.134(a) of "any relevant factor"- which may be used in the future. Future cases, with the right fact pattern in may find success in using immigration status as a reason factor in custody cases. I would not be surprised if a conservative legislator will jump on this and seek to add immigration status to 153.134(a).

Friday, March 09, 2018

Is there a Statute of Limitations Concerning Money Judgment for Child Support?

The court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction retains jurisdiction to confirm the total amount of child support arrearages and enter judgment for past-due child support. The statute of limitations concerning a money judgment is ten years. The suit must be filed within ten years from the date the child becomes an adult, or the child support obligation terminates. (157.005(b)).