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In re Marriage of Baldwin

Court of Appeals of Oregon

June 26, 2013

In the Matter of the Marriage of CARRIE EMMA BALDWIN, nka Carrie Emma Lewis, Petitioner below, and STATE OF OREGON, acting by and through the Division of Child Support, Petitioner-Respondent, and RUSSELL LAVERGNE BALDWIN, Respondent-Appellant.

Argued and submitted on March 15, 2013.

Lincoln County Circuit Court 025611 Thomas McHill, Judge.

Russell L. Baldwin argued the cause and filed the briefs pro se.

Patrick M. Ebbett, Senior Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General.

Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Nakamoto, Judge, and Egan, Judge.

EGAN, J.

Father appeals two supplemental judgments, assigning error to the trial court's denial of his motions seeking to compel entry of proof in the trial court record that he had satisfied a child-support judgment. Father contends that the trial court administrator was obligated under ORS 18.235(9) and (10) to enter proof in the record that he had satisfied his support payments through June 2011 and that it was error for the trial court to conclude otherwise. He also contends that the Division of Child Support (DCS) was required under both ORS 18.232 and ORS 18.228 to submit proof to the trial court that he had satisfied his child-support payments. Finally, he also challenges the trial court's denial of his request for damages, costs, and attorney fees arising from the state's refusal to enter such proof in the court record. We affirm.

We recite the following undisputed facts consistently with the trial court's findings, which are supported by evidence in the record. See Porter v. Griffin, 245 Or.App. 178, 182, 262 P.3d 1169 (2011) (an appellate court is bound by the trial court's findings of fact if there is any evidence in the record to support them). Father and mother divorced in 2003; the judgment of dissolution required father to pay mother $600 in child support each month at least until the child turns 18 and possibly for longer if the child is enrolled in school past that age. DCS is responsible for collecting those payments from father and distributing them to mother.[1] Mother has not assigned any portion of the support payments to the State of Oregon. On several occasions, father fell behind on making his child support payments, such that DCS determined his account was in arrears. Father managed to bring his account current, however, and he made each of his monthly child support payments through June 30, 2011.

Several times after bringing his payments current, father sought to obtain proof from DCS that he had satisfied his payment obligations; he wanted DCS to forward documentation to the trial court showing that he had satisfied his support award judgment in order for that documentation to be entered in the court register and the judgment lien record. He made several requests by submitting proposed partial satisfaction documents to DCS along with signed statements indicating that he was, as of the specific times he filed each of the various requests, current on his payments. DCS refused to file the partial satisfaction documents submitted by father; it explained to father that the applicable statutes and administrative rules prohibited DCS from filing partial satisfaction documents with the court. After several of father's requests went unfulfilled by DCS, father filed a motion with the trial court that asked the court to declare that his judgment was partially satisfied. He additionally sought statutory damages and attorney fees from the state arising from the state's refusal to issue the proof of satisfaction he sought.

After a hearing on father's motion, the trial court issued a supplemental judgment in which it concluded that none of the applicable statutes or administrative rules required DCS to issue the partial satisfaction documents that father sought. Accordingly, despite its finding that father had fully paid his support obligations through June 30, 2011, the trial court denied father's motion with respect to both his request for an entry of partial satisfaction in the court records and for an award of damages and attorney fees.[2] After that first supplemental judgment was entered, father filed two requests directed to the trial court administrator. Those requests asked the administrator to "note in the register and in the judgment lien record * * * that the money award is paid in full through June 30, 2011." The court administrator refused to comply, citing the trial court's first supplemental judgment. Father then filed a motion for supplemental relief in which he sought a court order to compel the court administrator to provide father's requested relief. The trial court denied that motion in a second supplemental judgment. Father timely appealed both supplemental judgments.

Because resolution of this appeal turns on Oregon's satisfaction of judgment statutes, we first offer an overview of the pertinent statutes. As relevant to this appeal, Oregon's statutory scheme for satisfaction of money awards consists of four statutes, which together provide several ways for a judgment debtor to get proof entered into the court records that a debt has been satisfied.[3] The foundational statute is ORS 18.225, under which a judgment debtor may obtain a satisfaction document directly from a judgment creditor. That statute provides that "[a] satisfaction document may be for full or partial satisfaction of a money award."[4] The satisfaction document must be signed by the judgment creditor or the creditor's attorney, and the signature must be witnessed by a notary public. ORS 18.225(1). ORS 18.225(3) makes the creditor's compliance with the judgment debtor's request mandatory: "Upon request by a judgment debtor * * *, a judgment creditor must provide to the judgment debtor a satisfaction document for all amounts credited against a money award as of the date that the satisfaction document is signed." Once a judgment debtor has obtained the signed satisfaction document, the debtor may file it directly with the court administrator for entry into the register and the judgment lien record. ORS 18.225(4).

Different statutory procedures are triggered, however, where a judgment debtor makes payments to DCS rather than directly to the judgment creditor.[5] In that case, a satisfaction document "may be filed with the court administrator only as provided in ORS 18.228." ORS 18.225(6). ORS 18.228 provides, in part:

"(1) If a support award is paid to the Department of Justice, the judgment creditor may receive credit for satisfaction of the judgment only in the manner provided by this section. The department may provide judgment creditors with forms and instructions for satisfaction of support awards under this section.
"(2) Any satisfaction document for a support award described in subsection (1) of this section must be mailed to or delivered to the Department of Justice, and not to the court administrator. The department shall credit the amounts reflected in the satisfaction document to the support award pay records maintained by the department. Except as provided in subsection (3) of this section [pertaining to support awards assigned to the state], the department shall not credit amounts against the support award pay records to the extent that the judgment is assigned or subrogated to this or another state. The Department of Justice shall thereafter promptly forward the satisfaction document to the court administrator for the court in which the money award was entered, together with a certificate from the department stating the amounts reflected as paid in the ...

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