A support order is a judgment and they are installment payment plans. Each installment is subject to a legal interest rate (California is 10%). I have had many clients inquire about how many missed payments are required to commence enforcement. There is no rule that a series of payments are required. As soon as one installment payment is missed, it is an enforceable judgment that the debtor has failed to comply wit. The delinquent amount is accruing interest and is subject to recovery.

A writ of execution is a court order and enforced by the sheriff or other levying officer and empowers the levying office to seize the judgment debtor’s property in order to pay off the debt.  In California, you are required to use the mandatory judicial council forms.

The judgment creditor identifies the debtor’s bank accounts and the levying officer then withdraws the money owed from those bank accounts and delivers the monies to my office on behalf of my client. Other assets that can be seized are stocks, contents of a safe deposit boxes, or other tangible properties (automobiles, artwork etc.) Drafting the writ of execution and executing it is a complex matter and I suggest contacting our office to do it right.

Another method of enforcing a support order is through a lien. A lien is a legal right to keep possession of a property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is discharged. The lien is created through the recording of the debt with the county recorder’s office.

There is again a form that is required to record the abstract of support judgment. The court recorder’s office then lodges the court order. The judgment debtor is entitled to notice of the lien. That notice requirement is satisfied through service by the judgment creditor of a notice of lien upon the debtor. If, at the time of recordation of the lien, the county recorder does not have a proof of service, the court recorder must send notice within 10 days of the recordation of the abstract of judgment.

Any order for child, spousal, or family support must include an earnings assignment order for support. This requirement applies to initial support order and to modifying existing orders. The assignment order must be in an amount sufficient to pay the current support order and, when there are any arrearages, must include the amount to be paid either in full or monthly.

There is a developing industry in California focused on collecting child support arrearages. The private child support collector is any individual, corporations, attorney, nonprofit organization or other nongovernmental entity hired by the person receiving the support for a fee. Every court order for child support issued on or after 1/1/2010 shall have in the court order that a fee shall not exceed and 33 and 1/3% of the total amount in arrears.

Family code judgments and orders are exempt from any requirement that a judgment be renewed and failure to renew has no effect on enforceability of the judgment. I suggest renewing the judgment since it puts the debtor on renewed notice, effectuates compounding of interest, and makes it more difficult for the debtor to file a motion to vacate and attack the judgment.

Any questions, feel free to email me at [email protected] or call my office 310-601-7144.

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