Alexander v. Harris

278 So. 3d 721 (2019)

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Alexander v. Harris

Florida District Court of Appeal
278 So. 3d 721 (2019)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

Christina Alexander (plaintiff) obtained a valid child-support order against Clifford Harris (defendant) in 2009. Between 2009 and 2016, Harris failed to pay child support and Alexander filed three separate, unsuccessful motions for civil contempt and support enforcement. Child-support arrears exceeded $91,000 by 2017. Harris’s only income came from a discretionary special-needs trust with a spendthrift provision. The trust corpus was sufficient to pay Harris’s monthly support for his lifetime, and the trustee made those monthly payments directly to third-parties to cover Harris’s living expenses. It was undisputed that Harris had no control over the trust, could not force the trustee to make disbursements, and never personally received any of the money from the monthly disbursements. In the most recent enforcement proceeding, Alexander argued that the spendthrift provision in Harris’s special-needs trust was unenforceable against a valid child-support order, and Alexander therefore sought a writ of garnishment against the trust disbursements. Harris countered, arguing that garnishing the special-needs trust would render him ineligible for federal assistance programs. The trial court denied Alexander’s motion, holding that Harris had no ability to pay and that it could not garnish discretionary payments from a special-needs trust. Alexander appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sleet, J.)

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