The Debt that Never Ends

John and Vladixa Boswell were married and had two children together. Denise was born in 1980, and John Jr. was born in 1982. Unfortunately, the marriage was not happy, and in 1985, John and Vladixa divorced. Vladixa was awarded custody of the children, and John was ordered to pay $70.00 per month per child in child support. John paid his support for two months, but was unable to do so after that because Vladixa "disappeared" with the children. For the next 14 years, John was unable to see his children or make his child support payments. Then, in 1998, Vladixa appeared and "gave" custody of John Jr. to John. By this time, Denise was already an adult. John Jr. continued to live with his dad until he, too, became an adult.

Fifteen years later, in 2013, Vladixa sued John for back child support (plus interest) in the amount of $92,734.94. Her legal theory: Once child support is owed, it is always owed; and therefore, she was entitled to her back child support. John argued to the trial court that he should not be held responsible for the arrearages, under the legal theory of "laches." Under this theory, in the interest of fairness, one loses one's right to pursue a cause of action usually due to unreasonable and prejudicial delay in pursuing the action. In this case, John argued that Vladixa hid herself and the children from him for years making payments to her impossible. Further, she waited an additional 15 years before she filed her cause of action! The trial court agreed with John, and barred Vladixa from claiming back child support.

Vladixa appealed, and here the case gets a little complicated. In John's response to Vladixa's appeal, he agreed that the trial court was in error, and that he did owe the money. However, Vladixa continued with her appeal because she felt the trial judge was wrong in determining she disappeared with the children. Unfortunately for Vladixa, the appellate court determined the trial court was not in error in concluding Vladixa disappeared with the children, and held her responsible for all court costs.

In California, under Family Code Section 291, once child support, it is always owed. It cannot be discharged in bankruptcy (by federal law), and cannot be waived by the person owed the money, or under a theory of "snooze you lose." The only exception is child support owed to the state of California (usually because the custodial parent is receiving some type of welfare support from the state).

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