A law the Legislature passed last year to get divorced parents to pay child support or alimony on time is unconstitutional, a Salt Lake man says.
Tim Funk filed a class-action lawsuit against Gov. Norm Bangerter and Attorney General David Wilkinson in U.S. District Court on Friday, alleging that Section 30-3-10.6 of the Utah Code violates the right to due process of law.He seeks a judgment declaring the section unconstitutional and nullifying any judgment or equivalent of judgment entered against himself or other plaintiffs as a result of the law.
The section in question says that on the day a child support or alimony obligation comes due, it becomes a judgment.
Funk's attorney, Brian M. Barnard, said that normally when someone fails to pay on time, the recipient spouse files a complaint in court. The obligated spouse has a chance to respond, then a judgment may issue.
"Under this new statute you don't get a chance to defend yourself." The judgment becomes a lien against property, and the wages of the obligated person can be garnisheed, Barnard said.
In Funk's case, he was divorced in 1980 and had to pay $100 monthly alimony until September 1984, when the amount dropped to a token $1 per month.
This year, intending to buy some real property, he went to a title company for insurance and was told he had a lien against him for alimony, the suit said.
Funk told the company the obligation had ended, but the company told him that to get title insurance he would have to get an affidavit from his ex-wife verifying that she is not claiming alimony.
Funk "has no desire to contact his former spouse or in any way involve her in his contemplated purchase of real property," the suit said.
Barnard said the suit was filed on behalf of all persons in Utah who now or in the past eight years have had a court order to pay child support or alimony. He chose the eight-year cutoff because that's when the statute of limitations runs out.
Many people could be affected by the case, the attorney said. He estimated that Utah has 8,000 divorces per year and that probably two-thirds of those result in child support or alimony orders.