Family Code 291 is About Family Law Judgment Enforcement and Renewals

Text of Family Code 291 (as of 2024)

Judgment, enforcement and renewal; Defense of laches; Effect of death; Self-help materials

"(a) A money judgment or judgment for possession or sale of property that is made or entered under this code, including a judgment for child, family, or spousal support, is enforceable until paid in full or otherwise satisfied.

(b) A judgment described in this section is exempt from any requirement that a judgment be renewed. Failure to renew a judgment described in this section has no effect on the enforceability of the judgment.

(c) A judgment described in this section may be renewed pursuant to Article 2 (commencing with Section 683.110) of Chapter 3 of Division 1 of Title 9 of Part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure. An application for renewal of a judgment described in this section, whether or not payable in installments, may be filed:

(1) If the judgment has not previously been renewed as to past due amounts, at any time.

(2) If the judgment has previously been renewed, the amount of the judgment as previously renewed and any past due amount that became due and payable after the previous renewal may be renewed at any time after a period of at least five years has elapsed from the time the judgment was previously renewed.

(d) In an action to enforce a judgment for child, family, or spousal support, the defendant may raise, and the court may consider, the defense of laches only with respect to any portion of the judgment that is owed to the state.

(e) Nothing in this section supersedes the law governing enforcement of a judgment after the death of the judgment creditor or judgment debtor.

(f) On or before January 1, 2008, the Judicial Council shall develop self-help materials that include: (1) a description of the remedies available for enforcement of a judgment under this code, and (2) practical advice on how to avoid disputes relating to the enforcement of a support obligation. The self-help materials shall be made available to the public through the Judicial Council self-help Internet Web site.

(g) As used in this section, "judgment" includes an order."

Summary of Family Code 291

  1. A money judgment or a judgment involving property, such as for child, family, or spousal support, remains enforceable until fully paid or resolved. This type of judgment does not need to be renewed to remain enforceable. However, it can be renewed if a person wants it renewed.
  2. If a judgment has never been renewed for past due amounts, it can be renewed at any time. If it has been renewed before, it can be renewed again after five years.
  3. In cases involving child, family, or spousal support, the person owing money can use the defense of laches (a delay in enforcing a right) only for the part of the judgment owed to the State.
  4. The normal rules for enforcing judgments after the death of the person owed money or the person who owes money still apply.
  5. In this context, "judgment" also includes court orders.

Why is Family Code 291 important to you?

Family Code § 291 is important for a spouse, ex-spouse, or parent with a family law judgment or order for several key reasons:

  1. Enforceability Without Renewal: The code ensures that judgments for money, property, or support (child, family, or spousal) remain enforceable until they are fully paid or satisfied. This means the person owed money does not have to worry about their judgment expiring or losing validity over time, even if they forget to renew it.
  2. Flexibility in Renewal: While renewal is not required to maintain enforceability, the code allows the judgment to be renewed if needed. This may allow for certain advantages with accumulated interest owed on the judgment.
  3. Protection Against Delays (Laches): The code allows the defense of laches only for portions of the judgment owed to the State, not for amounts owed directly to the individual. This protects the person owed from losing their right to enforce the judgment due to delays in taking action. However, it is still mostly a bad idea to delay collection. Often, a person becomes harder to collect with the passage of time.

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