Collecting Child Support from Deadbeats. Laches, Homestead & Other Tidbits
At one point in time I read that there are hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding support obligations floating out there. Collecting child support from deadbeats is sometimes difficult to do. I recently collected almost $200,000 in past arrearages from a deadbeat’s personal injury settlement. There is good case law supporting the entry of a lien on personal injury proceeds. However, it is not an automatic occurrence. The support recipient must file a motion and get it heard quickly in order to have a valid lien. When I file a motion, I indicate I have sent a copy to the deadbeat, the defendant who is being targeted in the personal injury claim, the defendant’s attorney and their insurance company. Most insurance companies won't risk issuing a check even if the motion is unheard at the time of a settlement. Get the motion heard quickly as having an order enforces your rights even more. Obviously, having a child support arrearage final judgment helps. In the case I mentioned above, I even did a writ of garnishment against the insurance company the day after the deadbeat tendered the settlement release! This all but ensured the entire proceeds were locked up until we got in front of the local Palm Beach County judge.
Is laches a real defense to child-support collection? I say no. There is a plethora of good case law indicating it is almost impossible to successfully argue and prove entitlement to laches. Although I have seen many lawyers try to raise laches in defense of a child support obligation, invariably they are unable to prove the elements of this defense sufficiently to entitle their client to walk away from the support obligation.
Florida's homestead protection prevents creditors from collecting debts against a person's home. However, there are several appellate court decisions that approve the collection of child support debt against a Homestead. In the same case I'm talking about above, I also have an order allowing me to foreclose the more than $400,000 in support arrearages against the deadbeat’s home.
Want some case law supporting these premises? Send me an e-mail to JFields@LaBovick.com, and I will send you back a packet of the orders I have obtained on all of these issues. I am always available as a consulting attorney or referring attorney to do this for you.