Some of the most significant issues that arise in divorce or separation proceedings involve the couple’s children, such as child support, custody, and visitation. Courts in San Diego and throughout the state take these matters seriously, especially child support. The legal system operates in such a way as to assist the child in obtaining the support he or she needs. For instance, parties are able to seek the assistance of California county agencies when attempting to enforce a parent’s court-ordered child support obligation.
One of the reasons that courts get involved in such matters is that children are unable to advocate for themselves. Child support cases can become complicated and difficult, depending on the particular circumstances. In any family law case where there are children involved, parties are encouraged to seek the assistance of an experienced San Diego family law attorney as early as possible in the proceeding.
In a recent California case, a couple that divorced in 2007 disputed the wife’s right to enforce a judgment lien against certain real property that was deeded to the husband under their marital settlement agreement (“MSA”). She was attempting to enforce the lien to recoup child support payments. The wife claimed that under the terms of the MSA, which divided the couple’s assets and other rights and obligations, the husband was required to pay the wife $2,000 in monthly child support and to secure and maintain health insurance for their two daughters. Under the agreement, the husband received one property that was free of debt at the time of the divorce. However, in 2008, the husband arranged for a loan on the property. He subsequently followed through with his child support obligations for a period of time.
But in May 2010, the husband defaulted on the loan; the property was foreclosed upon and conveyed to a third party by trustee’s deed and later sold to another couple on August 23, 2010. The wife brought this action on August 26th of that year, arguing that the judgment lien created by the recording of the divorce judgment had priority over the deed of trust, and therefore she maintained a superior priority lien in the property. The trial court concluded that the husband’s child support payments were up to date at the time that the deed of trust was recorded, concluding that the property was free of liens at that time. Therefore, the court held that the original marital judgment (except for child support payments) did not impose a lien upon the subject property.
The wife appealed, arguing that the court erred in finding that the property was free of her judgment lien on the day the deed of trust was recorded. She asserted that health care insurance (as required by the divorce judgment) is a form of child support. The court of appeals disagreed with the wife, after reviewing California Code Section 697.320. Under the law, the judgment lien created by the recording of the divorce judgment only secured the payment of a money judgment for child, family, or spousal support payable in installments. Here, the court concluded that the part of the judgment requiring the husband to maintain health insurance did not give rise to a judgment lien against the property under the law. According to the court, it was not “a judgment payable in installments.”
Child support is vitally important in divorce cases. Separating spouses should understand how courts determine the appropriate amount of support and how to enforce such an award should the need arise. Parties in family law cases affecting the rights of children are typically encouraged to consult with an experienced family law attorney as early in the process as possible. Roy M. Doppelt has been representing parties in divorce matters for more than 20 years. His office serves clients throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt & Forney through our website, or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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