Community Property: The Community Property Goliath Defeats Enforcement of Child Support

Keith Burgess-Jackson, Community Property: The Community Property Goliath Defeats Enforcement of Child Support, 23 Gonz. L. Rev. 481 (1988)

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A common provision in property settlement agreements requires the father to maintain life insurance with his minor child (or children) named as beneficiary. Such provisions secure the child support obligation against the father’s possible death. The child must be maintained as beneficiary of the life insurance policy until the security for support provision permits otherwise. In an unprecedented decision, the Washington Supreme Court in Porter v. Portere held that designating a child as beneficiary of a group term life insurance policy as security for support pursuant to a divorce decree could not defeat a second wife’s community property interest in the insurance proceeds. The court’s decision departed from Washington’s long tradition of strongly enforcing child support obligations. The court failed to consider the equities that may mandate awarding the proceeds to the child named as beneficiary. In contrast, other community property jurisdictions reach a result more favorable to the child after weighing the relative equities. In addition to discussing Washington’s strong policy of enforcing child support obligations as evinced by case law and statutory law, this note considers the approaches taken by the courts in several other jurisdictions and recommends that Washington adopt an approach that will permit full enforcment of security for support clauses when appropriate. . .

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