Legislative Developments in Community Property Law: Non-Obligated Spouse’s Earnings Immune from Garnishment For Antenuptial Child Support Debts

Washington Senate Bill 3660, (S.B. 3660) effective August 23, 1983, resolved the conflict between two competing principles involving community property issues dating back to the 1939 landmark case of Fisch v. Marler. The bill amended RCW § 26.16.2004 to provide that antenuptial child support obligations are a community debt but that the nonobligated spouse’s earnings, and bank accounts containing funds identifiable as those earnings, are exempt from this obligation.

In a further amendment contained in S.B. 3660, Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) collection procedures were revised to provide for a mandatory hearing prior to garnishment of a community bank account to allow the debtor to prove that the garnished funds represent identifiable earnings of the “nonobligated” spouse. Both of these amendments codified the holdings of the Washington Supreme Court in Van Dyke v. Thompson.

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Milton Rowland, Legislative Developments in Community Property Law: Non-Obligated Spouse’s Earnings Immune from Garnishment For Antenuptial Child Support Debts, 19 Gonz. L. Rev. 571 (1983).

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