Spousal Support

The rules for enforcing spousal support orders are somewhat different from those controlling a civil judgment. The good news for the creditor, however, is that the rules are in their favor.

For a variety of public policy reasons the law favors the enforcement of support orders and judgments. One of these advantages is an open-ended amount of time for enforcing the order or judgment. With regular civil judgments you must enforce or renew the judgment within ten years or it expires. A support order or judgment issued after or which was valid as of January 1, 1993 is enforceable until paid. You have the option of renewing the judgment from time to time in order to compound the interest, but renewal is not necessary to enforcement.

Another power available to those seeking to enforce a support order is the ability to garnish a pension. Usually pensions, retirement benefits, and retirement accounts are exempt from a levy. This includes both the money on deposit as well as the stream of payments. With a support order or judgment, however, you can take a piece of the payment stream. This is an important advantage over a civil judgment.

These advantages are in addition to the other tools available for enforcing a money judgment such as liens on property, bank levies, wage garnishment, and other possibilities.

It is also important to keep in mind that each payment due under a support order or judgment is added to the judgment when it is due. It then earns simple interest at the rate of 10% per year until paid. As mentioned above, the interest compounds when the judgment is renewed. It does not take long for even a small amount of back support to grow into a significant amount of money.