The Judgment That Adjudicates the Obligation is the Judgment of Divorce.
The “divorce judgment” is the judgment that adjudicates the obligation. The Texas Supreme Court stated in In the Interest of A.D.,
The 1974 divorce judgment established Kenneth’s obligation to pay, and Shirley’s right to receive, $160 per month in child support. The only issue that remained unresolved after 1974 was securing Kenneth’s compliance with the court’s order.
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In this case, the administrative writ is a remedy for Kenneth’s repeated and continuing violation of the 1974 divorce decree that ordered him to pay specific amounts.
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An administrative writ of withholding for delinquent payments does not seek to impose a legal liability on the obligor to provide for his children. Instead, it is one of several methods the Family Code provides as a remedy to secure performance of a previously adjudicated liability.
A.D., 73 S.W.3d at 247. The time periods for which the court has jurisdiction over each of these independent remedies are set forth in separate subchapters and are specific as to each remedy. The conclusion that the separate and independent remedies arise from the divorce judgment and not from the “single cumulative judgment” is further reinforced by the Supreme Court’s holding in A.D. that a “statute of limitations does not apply to past due child support because the child support obligation and the duty to pay child support was adjudicated at the time the divorce judgment was signed. A.D., 73 S.W.3d at 249. Each method of collecting is a separate post judgment remedy and is not dependent on any other post judgment remedy. A.D., 73 S.W.3d at 246.
A fundamental flaw in Obligor’s position is that he wants to make the time periods of §157.005(b) applicable to and limit the court’s jurisdiction on all other child support collection remedies. The second fundamental flaw in Obligor’s position is that he contends if you do not have a single cumulative judgment, you cannot avail yourself of any other remedies in the Family Code for the collection of unpaid child support. In other words, Obligor ignores that the Divorce Judgment adjudicates the child support obligation, while the remedies in each subchapter of the Family Code flow from the divorce judgment and not the cumulative judgment.
The Fort Worth Court held in Harrison v. Cox,
We are convinced that the purpose of Art. 14.09 [the judgment statute] was to provide courts with efficient means of enforcing obligations and that the Legislature intended the different remedies provided by that Statute for the collection of child support to operate independently of each other as well as concurrently.
Harrison v. Cox, 524 S.W.2d 387, 392 (Tex. Civ. App. – Fort Worth 1975, writ ref’d n.r.e).
Each method of collecting is a separate post judgment remedy and is not dependent on any other post judgment remedy. The case law has established that the time periods applicable to and the jurisdiction of the court for each independent remedy is determined by the subchapter applicable to each independent remedy. A.D., 73 S.W.3d at 249; In the Interest of S.C.S., 48 S.W.3d 831, 834 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist. 2001], pet. denied sub. nom. Sprouse v. Sprouse, 92 S.W.3d 502 (Tex. 2002); In Re Cannon, 993 S.W.2d 354, 356 (Tex. App. – San Antonio 1999, orig. proc.); In Re Digges, 981 S.W.2d 445, 446 (Tex. App. – San Antonio 1998, no pet.); Ex Parte Wilbanks, 722 S.W.2d 221, 224 (Tex. App. – Amarillo 1986, orig. proc.).
In S.C.S., the 14th Court of Appeals held the post judgment remedy of a single cumulative judgment is not a new legal liability; instead it is one of several methods to enforce a previously adjudicated liability. 48 S.W.3d at 834. The court in S.C.S. also cites with approval the holding in Digges that the time periods set forth in §157.005(b) do not control the jurisdiction of the court over any other remedy for the collection of missed payments.
Once the divorce judgment is entered, the adjudication of the obligation has occurred. A.D., 73 S.W.3d at 248; S.C.S., 48 S.W.3d at 833. The remedies available to enforce the previously adjudicated obligation may be expanded or contracted but the elimination, limitation or expansion of one remedy does not eliminate, limit or expand any other remedies. The Supreme Court in A.D. stated:
When [the parties] divorced in 1974, the only means available to enforce the order were contempt and a cumulative judgment. Later, the Legislature and Texas voters added wage withholding to the court’s enforcement mechanisms, and the court could have used this method to collect [Obligor]‘s overdue support whether or not it existed as a remedy when [Obligor] failed to meet his child-support obligations. . . Now, the Legislature has created another enforcement method, administrative wage withholding, and has made it available regardless of how long an obligor has avoided his court-ordered support duty. The Legislature has thus elected not to reward [Obligor]’s sixteen-year refusal to follow the terms of his divorce decree by forever excusing his duty to support his family. The Legislature was free to adopt new remedies for collecting delinquent child support, such as the administrative writ at issue here, and to apply those remedies in cases in which the court’s enforcement power had lapsed.
A.D., 73 S.W.3d at 249 (citations omitted).
The Legislature clearly did not intend to reward Obligor for his failure to follow the terms of his divorce decree. The Legislature in 2005 neither eliminated nor amended the time periods for writs, liens or levies.
In A.D., the only available remedy to enforce at the time of the divorce was contempt. The Legislature has since added writs of income withholding (no time limits as of legislative amendments in 1997), liens (no time limits as of legislative amendments in 1997), levies (no time limits as of legislative enactment in 2001), and license suspensions (no time limits) to enforce the court order.
It is clear throughout the Texas Family Code and case law that the independent remedies are contained in distinctly different subchapters of the Family Code. Each subchapter of the Family Code has its own specific time period for the remedy being used to enforce the divorce judgment.