I have a child support judgment against my ex but they are not making any payments. They have a house. Is there anything I can do?
Great question. I get this question fairly often in my practice and the nice thing is you have options. If you have received a judgment in your case you can record a child support judgment with the county recorder’s office to create a judgment lien. Recording the judgment can prevent individuals from buying or selling residences.
This lien acts as any other lien in that it must be satisfied prior to being removed from the property before a sale can be finalized. This is a huge impediment to real estate transactions and can result in complete satisfaction of the debt. This can also be used very effectively in terms of negotiated settlement. The debtor (your ex) may not be able to pay you everything but could settle for a slightly lesser amount. In terms of collections, “cash in hand” is better than a paper judgment because with a judgment you still have to collect.
Okay – How do I record the judgment?
First you must get a certified copy of the judgment from the courthouse. The fee for certified copies in Maricopa County is $27.00. Remember that you must pay $.50 per page for the judgment itself. The Court will NOT allow you to bring in a copy. The Court must print it for you and will charge you per page.
Once you have the certified copy you have to fill out an information form that is recorded with the judgment itself. The information sheet provides basic information about the judgment, your case, and both parties. Once you have completed the information sheet take it and the certified copy of the judgment to the recorder’s office in the county in which your ex’s property is located. There is a $10.00 recording fee which must be paid when you are recording the document.
Regular judgments must be renewed every five (5) years after entry. Failure to renew will result in expiration of the judgment and a bar for collections. Fortunately, for parents like yourself that are owed support, Child Support judgments are NOT waived due to a failure to renew the judgment after five (5) years.
If an individual does not own any property to lien, or has everything in his/her spouse or other family member’s name, recording the judgment may not be as effective. Unfortunately, many individuals that owe child support owe money to a lot of creditors (credit card, companies, utilities, etc.) and will either not be able to own property or are deceptive and know that a lien can be placed against anything in his/her name, and will purposely avoid owning anything. This can be extremely frustrating but luckily, family support is treated differently from most other debts and cannot be discharged.
There are many options to encourage payments of these debts. The state has created accountability court and enforcement court, which has allowed for incarceration for failure to pay support, and allowed the department of child support enforcement to intercept tax refunds. It has also taken away driver’s licenses and place holds on passports.
This fairly inexpensive, and easy action can result in a complete recovery of your judgment.
Information on recording judgments can be found at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office: http://recorder.maricopa.gov/
Remember to check the superior court website for up-to-date fee information for the certification and page costs: http://www.clerkofcourt.maricopa.gov/FC-FeeSchedule.htm
As always, if you have questions about recording or enforcing judgments you should speak to one of our trusted family law attorneys.