What are the steps to enforce a judgment for support? Is there a distinction on the kind of salable property? Can the employer hold the salaries of the parent?
A mother named Jennifer filed a complaint for compulsory recognition and support for her child against her ex-partner, Paul. In the end, the court ultimately ruled in her favor. It seems, however, that Paul continues to defy the final judgment of the court against him. Jennifer seeks some advice on how to realize her win in the legal battle.
Winning and eventually securing a court judgment is essential. However, it is another step for a prevailing party to actually reap its benefits. This article illustrates the legal means to enforce a judgment for child support. Losing parties in a case cannot relegate a court judgment to a parchment containing empty promises.
Issuance of a writ of execution
The mother and her child can use the final judgment of the court to enforce the order directing child support. This final judgment contains the legal rights of the prevailing party and the obligations of the losing one.
A writ of execution follows a final judgment of a court.
Rule 39, Section 1 of the Rules of Court states in part:
“Execution shall issue as a matter of right [xxx] upon a judgment or order that disposes of the action or proceeding upon the expiration of the period to appeal therefrom if no appeal has been duly perfected.”
Sheriff proceeds to enforce the writ
A judgment for support is one containing a monetary award. Rule 39, Section 9 of the Rules of Court lays down the steps to execute a final judgment involving money:
How to get the money?
The most logical step is to demand from the parent concerned.
“Section 9. Execution of judgments for money, how enforced. –
(a) Immediate payment on demand. – The officer shall enforce an execution of a judgment for money by demanding from the judgment obligor the immediate payment of the full amount stated in the writ of execution and all lawful fees. The judgment obligor shall pay in cash, certified bank check payable to the judgment obligee, or any other form of payment acceptable to the latter, [xxx].
However, if he cannot pay using money or other acceptable means, the sheriff may sell some of his properties.
(b) Satisfaction by levy. — If the judgment obligor cannot pay all or part of the obligation in cash, certified bank check, or other mode of payment acceptable to the obligee, the officer shall levy upon the properties of the judgment obligor of every kind and nature whatsoever which may be disposed of for value and not otherwise exempt from execution giving the latter the option to immediately choose which property or part thereof may be levied upon, sufficient to satisfy the judgment. If the judgment obligor does not exercise the option, the officer shall first levy on the personal properties, if any and then on the real properties if the personal properties are insufficient to answer for the judgment.
The sheriff may also secure the debts and credits due to the parent. He can look after the bank deposits, financial interest, commissions, etc.
(c) Garnishment of debts and credits. – The officer may levy on debts due the judgment obligor and other credits, including bank deposits, financial interests, royalties, commissions and other personal property not capable of manual delivery in the possession or control of third parties. Levy shall be made by serving notice upon the person owing such debts or having in his possession or control credits to which the judgment obligor is entitled.
The parent has an option to choose
It is the task of the sheriff to enforce the writ of execution issued by the court. The sheriff will first ask the parent to pay in cash. He can also pay through a certified bank check or another mode of payment accepted as a form of support.
If he is still unable to pay, the sheriff may levy properties of the parent. He can choose salable properties not exempt from execution.
However, the sheriff must ask the parent to choose among his properties to satisfy the judgment for support. If the parent does not exercise his prerogative to choose, the sheriff himself may start choosing properties. Personal properties go first, and if insufficient, then the real properties.
The sheriff may also garnish debts and credits due to the parent from his or her creditors.
Article 204 of the Family Code also gives the concerned parent some flexibility to fulfill his obligations.
“Article 204. The person obliged to give support shall have the option to fulfill the obligation either by paying the allowance fixed, or by receiving and maintaining in the family the person who has a right to receive support. The latter alternative cannot be availed of in case there is a moral or legal obstacle thereto.”
Can employers be included?
Employers can be involved but only for the purpose of holding the salary of the parent. Moreover, there must be a court order to do so.
The salary of the parent after having rendered services to the employer is analogous to a credit lawfully due to him. The court may garnish this credit or payable salary in case of insufficient properties to answer for the obligation.
Recently the Supreme Court issued A.M. 21-03-02-SC, which includes the Rule on Actions for Support, effective May 31, 2021.
This issuance provides, among others, specific guidance on how to satisfy a judgment in an action for support.
“Section 16. Satisfaction of judgment. – The concerned officer shall enforce execution of the judgment for support by demanding from the judgment obligor the immediate payment of the full amount stated in the writ of execution and all lawful fees. The judgment obligor shall pay in cash, certified bank check payable to the judgment obligee, or any other form of payment acceptable to the latter in accordance with Section 9, Rule 139, 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
If the judgment obligor cannot pay all or part of the obligation in cash, certified bank check payable to the judgment obligee, or any other form of payment acceptable to the judgment obligee, any of the following measure may be availed of:
(a) Garnishment of debts and other credits;
(b) Satisfaction by levy;
(c) Deduction from salary;
(d) Withholding of pension, retirement and other funds;
(e) Such other measures authorized by law and the rules of procedure.
Without resorting to the foregoing measures, on joint motion, the parties may avail of [court-annexed mediation] for purposes of voluntary compliance with the judgment.”
It even provides a broader reach for the prevailing party since pensions, retirement benefits and other funds are possible sources to satisfy the judgment.
How about in criminal cases under Republic Act 9262?
Under Republic Act (RA) No. 9262 or the “Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004,” employers can be ordered by the court in a protection order to hold the parent’s salary in favor of the woman and/or the child.
“(g) Directing the respondent to provide support to the woman and/or her child if entitled to legal support. Notwithstanding other laws to the contrary, the court shall order an appropriate percentage of the income or salary of the respondent to be withheld regularly by the respondent’s employer for the same to be automatically remitted directly to the woman. Failure to remit and/or withhold or any delay in the remittance of support to the woman and/or her child without justifiable cause shall render the respondent or his employer liable for indirect contempt of court[.]” (Section 8, RA 9262)
A punishment awaits an employer who will not follow the court’s order.
A civil case or a criminal case has its own specific means to enforce the judgment. In the end, both have the ultimate goal of making the judgment effective and real.
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