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Brandon M.
Brandon M., Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 12620
Experience:  Attorney experienced in all aspects of family law
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Back in the late 1980s my wife divorced me. She was granted

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Back in the late 1980's my wife divorced me. She was granted custody of our two children, 5 y.o. son and 7 y.o. daughter. She had returned to Southern California where the divorce took place. With the divorce there was a child support order of $200 for each child and $240 alimony for her, $640/month total. I soon got behind in payments, as this amount was beyond my means. Also, I lived first in New Mexico, then later, and presently in Arizona. Not long after the initial divorce, I received notice from California to discontinue making any payments directly to her. Apparently, she had signed up for Welfare. Now, more than twenty years later, with a much larger arrears (due to interest), she has contacted the attorney general's office, here in Arizona, and has initiated a case where she is persuing me directly for those arrears. A few years back, when I still had employment, California garnished my wages, she claims those actions were taken without her knowledge, perhaps entirely persued by the state of California. Is it legal for her to now persue me directly for these arrears? California appears unaware of her case.

Hello there:

Thank you for your question. There is no statute of limitation for the enforcement of California child support arrears, and there is no requirement that arrears are enforced through the state (in fact, many people enforce their own arrears even when the cases are still active because the child support enforcement offices generally do not have the resources to use the full scope of enforcement tools available). Obviously, this does not necessarily mean that there are arrears--it only means that she has the right to go to court and try to prove her case.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Isn't there a conflict, where the last order I received from California was to no longer pay her anything directly, but send any and all payments to the place they directed me to send them. That order was clear in advising me that any payments would not be counted, unless they were sent to the location specified. Now, her recent lawsuit through the Arizona AG's office has me making payments to an entirely different location and entity (a clearinghouse). Though neither is directly to her. I thought the reason I wasn't supposed to pay her directly was so California welfare could recoup their monies, first. Will CA welfare somehow manage to get their portion, even in present circumstances?

Hi again. You said "isn't there a conflict, where the last order I received from California was to no longer pay her anything directly, but send any and all payments to the place they directed me to send them." Even if you were directed to send payments directly to the State, that would not necessarily preclude her from enforcing any arrears.

When a Californian is a welfare recipient, any child support received would first go to the state to reimburse the state for the welfare paid to the recipient. For example, if someone collects $500 per month in welfare and $200 per month in child support, the recipient would not collect $700--the state would collect the $200 in child support and pay $500 per month to the recipient. However, if the welfare was discontinued, the child support would be owed directly to the recipient. Likewise, any amount of child support in excess of welfare benefits would be owed directly to the recipient.

But as I mentioned, having the right to seek a court order finding arrears is not the same as being entitled to the arrears sought. It could be that she is not entitled to anything at all, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have the right to sue and try to prove her case.
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