The Court Has Jurisdiction Over Liens, Levies & Writs of Income Withholding Until All Unpaid Child Support is Paid.
A child support lien is available as a remedy and remains in effect until all child support arrearages, including interest and attorney’s fees, are paid. Section 157.318 of the Texas Family Code states:
§157.318 Duration and Effect of Child Support Lien
(a) A lien is effective until all current support and child support arrearages, including interest and any costs and reasonable attorney’s fees, have been paid . . .
(b) The lien secures payment of all child support arrearages owed by the obligor under the underlying child support order . . .
Tex. Fam. Code §157.318(a), (b).
Section 157.318 of the Texas Family Code on liens was amended in 1997 to include no time limits on jurisdiction.
§ 158.102 Duration of Writ of Income Withholding
An order or writ for income withholding under this chapter may be issued until all current support and child support arrearages, interest, and any applicable fees and costs, including ordered attorney’s fees and court costs, have been paid.
Tex. Fam. Code §158.102.
Section 158.102 of the Texas Family Code on writs was amended in 1997 to include no time limits on jurisdiction.
The legislative amendments in 1997 specifically provided that the trial court had jurisdiction over liens and writs of income withholding and that they may be utilized for collecting unpaid child support until all unpaid child support has been paid. The 1997 legislature did not amend §157.005 of the Texas Family Code and left the time limits for jurisdiction of a single cumulative judgment to four years after emancipation.
A fundamental tenet of legislative interpretation is “the legislature is never presumed to do a useless act.” Russell v. Russell, 865 S.W.2d 929, 936 (Tex. 1993); In the Interest of S.C.S., 48 S.W.3d at 836. The amendment of §§157.318 and 158.102 was a specific legislative enactment establishing no time limits on the jurisdiction of liens and writs. If the time periods set forth in §157.005 applied to §§157.318 and 158.102, it would make these specific legislative enactments “useless” and meaningless.
Additionally, the lien statute as written prior to the 1997 amendments, had a specific ten year limitation which does not exist today.
§157.318 Duration and Effect of Child Support Lien – prior to 1997 amendment
(a) A lien is effective for 10 years from the date the notice is recorded in the county clerk’s office in the county where the property of the obligor is located.
(b) The lien may be extended for an additional 10 year period by recording a lien notice before the tenth anniversary of the date of the original filing of the notice.
Additionally, the other Family Code provisions regarding liens make it compelling that a cumulative judgment is not required for the issuance and utilization of a lien for the collection of unpaid child support.
§157.313(a)(5) Determination of Arrearages that May be Used for a Child Support Lien
Section 157.313(a)(5) specifically provides the amount of arrearages in a child support lien can be determined by an administrative order or writ that determined the arrearages.
Tex. Fam. Code §157.313(a)(5).
(a) A claimant may enforce child support by a lien as provided in this subchapter.
(b) The remedies provided by this subchapter do not effect the availability of other remedies provided by law.
(c) The lien is in addition to any other lien provided by law.
(d) A child support lien arises by operation of law against real and personal property of an obligor for all amounts of child support due and owing, including any accrued interest, regardless of whether the amounts have been adjudicated or otherwise determined . . . .
Tex. Fam. Code §157.312(a) – (d).
§157.331 Duration of Levy
If the property or right to property on which a notice of levy has been filed does not produce money sufficient to satisfy the amount of child support arrearages identified in the notice of levy, the claimant may proceed to levy on other property of the obligor until the total amount of child support due is paid.
Tex. Fam. Code §157.331.
The time periods for jurisdiction set forth in the Family Code for issuance of a child support lien are identical in every aspect to the time periods for a writ of withholding. The Family Code specifically provides the trial court has jurisdiction over child support liens, levies and writs of income withholding and each remedy by statutory enactment may be used at any time until all unpaid child support has been paid. While it would have been easier to have the same time limits applicable to the jurisdiction of the court for each child support collection remedy, the Legislature has specifically chosen not to do so. For example, contempt is two years after emancipation; a cumulative judgment is ten years after emancipation; writs of income withholding, liens and levies are available until all child support is paid.Child Support 2 Collect