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Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 5, California.

IN RE: CARLOS G., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. JUANITA G., Defendant and Appellant.

Civ. 61743.

Decided: February 09, 1982

William A. Reich, Legal Services Program of Pasadena, Los Angeles, for defendant and appellant. John H. Larson, County Counsel and Robin A. Ruffra, Deputy County Counsel, Los Angeles, for plaintiff and respondent.

This proceeding is ancillary to a proceeding initiated against the minor son of the appellant under the California Juvenile Court Law.   Respondent County of Los Angeles (hereinafter “County”) commenced these ancillary proceedings against appellant under sections 903 and 905 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, in which proceeding the respondent sought and obtained an order directing the appellant to reimburse respondent County for the cost of support care and maintenance which it had furnished to and for the appellant's minor son.

Thereafter, an order was made and entered against appellant to pay to respondent the sum of $666.90.   Respondent thereafter sought to enforce collection of a portion of the sum ordered and caused a garnishment of appellant's wages to be levied.   The appellant moved the court to quash the execution or to reduce the amount of money being withheld from appellant's wages pursuant to the garnishment.

The court denied appellant's motion and this appeal followed the denial of her motions.

Background Facts

Carlos, the minor son of appellant, was declared a ward of the juvenile court on February 5, 1975.   He was thereafter detained or committed to several facilities until August 7, 1978.   Respondent County maintained the minor during the aforesaid period.

On May 2, 1978, after a hearing, the juvenile court made an order, pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code sections 903 and 905, ordering and directing the minor's mother Juanita G. to reimburse respondent in the sum of $666.90 for the costs of care, support and maintenance of the minor, furnished by respondent during the period of his wardship.   The appellant was ordered to satisfy the order at the rate of $15 per month commencing on July 10, 1978.

Appellant fell behind in making the monthly payments as ordered.   Thereafter, respondent obtained a writ of execution for the unpaid balance of the order in the sum of $522.16.

The writ of execution indicated that it was issued pursuant to “an order for the support of a Minor.”

On June 10, 1980, respondent caused levy to be made on appellant's wages.   The sheriff gave the appellant's employer withholding instructions, and in accordance therewith, the employer withheld 50 percent of appellant's disposable earnings from her weekly pay period until the judgment was paid in full or a further direction to cease withholding further pay was received.

On August 5, 1980, appellant filed and served a notice of motion to quash the writ of execution and the order for reimbursement of the minor's costs advanced by respondent County or alternatively for an order to equitably determine the proper amount to be withheld from appellant's wages.   Declarations in support of the motions were also filed.

Hearing on the motions were held on August 19, 1980.   Appellant's motions were then denied.   Appellant thereafter filed a petition for a writ of prohibition and or mandate with the Court of Appeal.  (Garcia v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 2d Civil No. 60365.)   The petition was denied.   Appellant thereafter filed her appeal now before this court.

Issues Presented on This Appeal

1. Is an order made under Welfare and Institutions Code section 903 et seq. in which a minor's parent is ordered to reimburse the county for the cost of support and maintenance of a juvenile court ward a “support order” or is it a judgment on a non-statutory debt?

2. Did the juvenile court abuse its discretion in refusing to reduce the amount of money withheld from wages of the minor's parent on a garnishment and writ of execution arising out of the reimbursement order?

 Welfare and Institutions Code section 903 provides in part:  “[t]he father, mother, spouse, or other person liable for the support of a minor person, ․ shall be liable for the cost of his care, support, and maintenance in any county institution in which he is placed, detained, or committed pursuant to the order of the juvenile court ․”  Historically, the parent's obligation for support of a minor child long antedated the Welfare and Institutions Code.  “Parental liability for support of a minor child is of ancient origin.   It was recognized by such writers as Coke and Blackstone (citation omitted), and was the subject of an old English statute (43 Eliz. I, c.2).   It has long been statutory in California (citation omitted).   One reason for imposing this obligation is to prevent the child from becoming a public charge (citation).”  (County of Alameda v. Kaiser (1965) 238 Cal.App.2d 815, 817–818, 48 Cal.Rptr. 343.)   The obligation of a parent to support a minor child continues through any time the minor is detained in a correction facility.  (In re Shaieb (1967) 250 Cal.App.2d 553, 58 Cal.Rptr. 631.)

The California Supreme Court in the case of In re Ricky H. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 513, 86 Cal.Rptr. 76, 468 P.2d 204 upheld the constitutionality of the Welfare and Institutions Code section 903.1 which requires parents to reimburse the county for costs of services rendered to minor children.  (Also, see Annot. 15 U.S.C., § 1673, subd. (a), p. 589.)   It provides:  “(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section and in section 1675 of this title, the maximum part of the aggregate disposable earnings of an individual for any workweek which is subjected to garnishment may not exceed

“(1) 25 per centum of his disposable earnings for that week, ․”

(Annot. 15 U.S.C. § 1673, subsecs. (b)(1) and (A) (1975–1980 supp. pamphlet, p. 291).   It provides:  “(b)(1) The restrictions of subsection (a) of this section do not apply in the case of

“(A) any order for the support of any person issued by a court of competent jurisdiction or in accordance with an administrative procedure, which is established by State law, which affords substantial due process, and which is subject to judicial review.”

Section (2)(A) provides “where such individual is supporting his spouse or dependent child (other than a spouse or child with respect to whose support such order is used), 50 per centum of such individual's disposable earnings for that week; ․”

The term support is not defined in federal law.

Code of Civil Procedure section 723.050 provides:  “[t]he amount of earnings of a judgment debtor exempt from the levy of an earnings withholding order shall be that amount provided by federal law in 15 U.S.C. Sec. 1673.”

Code of Civil Procedure section 723.030 provides:  “․ an earnings withholding order on a writ of execution issued to collect delinquent amounts payable under a judgment for the support of a child, or spouse or former spouse, of the judgment debtor.   A withholding order for support shall be denoted as such on its face.”

Appellant contends that the court's reimbursement order is not a judgment for a minor's support but is in law a judgment upon a debt and is subject to the 25 percent limitation on funds subject to garnishment.

Respondent contends the order in law was a support order under the Welfare and Institutions Code section 903.1 and is therefore subject not to a 25 percent limitation but is subject to a 50 percent limitation on a debtor's wages subject to garnishment.

Appellant contends that the term “support” should be defined only as child support or spousal support arising out of marriage dissolution.   She cites as authority for this argument the case of V____ v. S____ (Mo.App.1979) 579 S.W.2d 149.   In that case the father of an illegitimate child was ordered to pay the child's mother a monthly sum for future child support and to reimburse the mother for the child's expenses incurred by her prior to the date of the order.   The mother then instituted garnishment proceedings to enforce the order.   The Missouri Appellate Court held that the reimbursement order under Missouri law was an action for recovery of a liquidated amount already paid out and the garnishment did not fall within the limitation of annotated 15 United States Code section 1673.   We do not believe the Missouri case is controlling here.

 The order to reimburse respondent County here was founded on a statutory obligation set forth in Welfare and Institutions Code section 903.   By its explicit terms, past due support furnished to a minor must be reimbursed.   Code of Civil Procedure section 723.030 uses language which refers to past due child support obligations.   It refers expressly to “delinquent amounts payable under a judgment for the support of a child ․”  We interpret the order of the juvenile court in this case as a support order and subject to the 50 percent garnishment limitation and not the 25 percent garnishment limitation rule applicable to nonsupport orders.

The second issue presented on this appeal concerns whether the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to reduce the sums being withheld from appellant's wages.

Code of Civil Procedure section 723.052, subdivision (b), provides in part:  “Upon motion of any interested party, the court shall make an equitable division of the judgment debtor's earnings that takes into account the needs of all the persons the judgment debtor is required to support ․”  (Emphasis added.)

 In support of appellant's motion to reduce the sums ordered to be repaid to respondent County or reduce the amount of wages withheld, appellant submitted two declarations executed by herself and the declaration of her physician.   The declarations of appellant showed that she was providing support for herself and four dependent relatives.   One of her dependent relatives was her 20-year-old son and another was a 26-year-old brother.   No showing was made that her son was either incompetent or physically unable to be self-supporting.   There is, likewise, no legal duty for appellant to support an adult brother.  (Code Civ.Proc., § 723.052, subd. (b).)

The other two dependents claimed by appellant was her 66-year-old mother and another son age 17.   No showing was made as to the ability of any of the alleged dependents to contribute anything to the family support.

Appellant also claimed in support of her motion that if the payments ordered were not reduced or the money withheld from her would not be reduced, she “would be unable to make my car payments and I will lose my car.”   Appellant did not assert or contend that the use of her automobile was required for her to hold her job.

In further support of her motions, appellant filed a declaration executed by her physician Robert M. Peck, M.D.   He declared that on August 5, 1980, in his opinion, appellant suffered an acute myocardial infarction.   Stress in his opinion could have been a precipitating cause of her condition.   The doctor did not indicate the length or nature of her disability, nor if the illness of appellant would affect her earning ability.

 On appeal the record before an appellate court must be viewed in the light most favorable to the orders of the juvenile court.  (In re Luwanna S. (1973) 31 Cal.App.3d 112, 114, 107 Cal.Rptr. 62.)

On the basis of the record in this case, this court cannot say that the juvenile court judge abused his discretion in denying appellant's request to reduce the amount of the order to reimburse the respondent or to reduce the amount funds ordered to be withheld from the appellant.

The judgment is affirmed.



HINDIN, Associate Justice.* FN* Assigned by the Chairperson of the Judicial Council.

STEPHENS, Acting P. J., and ASHBY, J., concur.