Purpose of A Single Cumulative Judgment

A “single cumulative judgment” (as it is referred to in A.D., 73 S.W.3d at 246) is not a new cause of action, it is only a remedy. A single cumulative judgment is a cumulation of the judgments that arise by operation of law under Texas Family Code §157.261(a) and determine a sum certain for enforcement as a debt only. Prior to the enactment of the cumulative judgment language on September 1, 1993, a contempt finding and/or judgment addressed only the portion of the arrears before the court at that time. Each time an enforcement hearing was held, arrears would be calculated from the date of the last court order ordering or enforcing support to the date of the hearing. The complexity of keeping up with each of these prior orders led to the creation of the cumulative judgment statute, which allowed the obligee and obligor to track the status of only one unpaid obligation instead of numerous ones. Act of May 30, 1993, 73rd R.S., HB 1433 §14 (codified as Tex. Fam. Code §§14.41(a), (e) (eff. 9/1/1993)) repealed and recodified as Tex. Fam. Code §157.263 (2005).

As shown above, each independent remedy has independent time periods. Therefore, how can one reconcile Obligor’s position that a cumulative judgment is a prerequisite for a child support lien or writ of income withholding? How can one reconcile Obligor’s position with the Family Code provision that arrearages determined under a writ of income withholding can be used in a child support lien? Tex. Fam. Code § 157.313(a)(5).

As stated previously, a fundamental tenet of legislative interpretation is that “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 Supreme Court held the statutory provisions for a writ of income withholding set forth a specific mechanism for the calculations of the amount of child support arrearages and determined the arrearages to be $41,000. The Supreme Court in A.D. made it clear the trial court does not have to reduce the delinquent amount of child support to a single cumulative judgment before the other enforcement remedies of the Family Code may be utilized. A cumulative judgment provides additional methods for the collection of unpaid child support, but it is not the exclusive method to collect unpaid child support, nor a prerequisite to collect unpaid child support. A.D., 73 S.W.3d at 247, fn 1. Most importantly, a single cumulative judgment is not the adjudication of the child support obligation; the child support obligation is adjudicated in the divorce judgment.Child Support 2 Collect

Published by Steven Sinkin on 2013-08-13