November 22, 2003
The Honorable Linda W. Cropp
Council of the District of Columbia
The John A. Wilson Building, S. 504
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Note: The views expressed herein represent only those of the Family Law Section of the D.C. Bar and not those of the D.C. Bar or of its Board of Governors.
RE: Bill 15-234, the “Uniform Trust Act of 2003.”
Dear Chairman Cropp:
The Family Law Section of the District of Columbia Bar wishes to express its support for the parts of Bill 15-234 that provide for the attachment of funds held in a trust in order to enforce judicial orders for child support or spousal support. It is important to the children and families of the District of Columbia that family support orders be enforceable and collectible.
The views expressed herein represent only those of the Family Law Section of the District of Columbia Bar and not those of the DC Bar or its Board of Governors. The following committee members participated in drafting this letter: Lisa Vogel, Jessica Rosenbaum, Lydia Watts, Margaret McKinney, Susan Butler, and Laurie Kohn.
Bill 15-234, the Uniform Trust Act of 2003, contains sections, §§ 19-1305.03 and .19-1305.04, that codify an important public policy exception to the protections afforded to the beneficiaries of trusts with “spend-thrift” provisions. As you are aware, a “spend-thrift” provision prevents most creditors of the beneficiary from attaching the trust to satisfy judgments. Sections 19-1305.03 and 19-1305.04 provide that, in recognition of the important public policy of supporting the families of the District of Columbia, even trusts with spend-thrift provisions could be attached to enforce a valid child support or spousal support order. We support this provision.
The law of the District, reflected in several appellate decisions, has long recognized that support orders may be enforced against all of the judgment debtor’s property, including intangible property. See e.g., Campbell v. Campbell, 353 A.2d 276, 278 (D.C. 1976) (interest in spend-thrift trust); Seidenberg v. Seidenberg, 225 F.2d 545 (D.C. Cir. 1955) (same); Montgomery v. Montgomery, 153 F.2d 634, 635 (D.C. Cir. 1946) (government pension); Schlaefer v. Schlaefer, 112 F.2d 177 (D.C. Cir. 1940) (disability insurance benefits). Various federal statutes contain similar public policy exceptions, including the Bankruptcy Code, § 523(a)(5), which makes nondischargeable the debtor’s obligations for alimony, maintenance, or support of a spouse, former spouse, or child and ERISA, § 206(d)(3) and the Federal Civil Service Act, 5 U.S.C. § 8345(j), both of which permit enforcement of support orders against pension benefits.
We are concerned by a proposed amendment to delete from the bill the public policy exceptions for family support orders. Bill 15-234 contains a statutory validation of spend-thrift trusts in § 19-1305.02. If the bill were enacted without the public-policy exception in §§ 19-1305.03 and 19-1305.04, the common law of the District, reflected in cases such as Campbell and Seidenberg, would be supplanted by the statute. Children and spouses would no longer be able to enforce support orders against beneficiaries. Such lack of support could have devastating effects on some families in the District.
Therefore, the Family Law Section of the DC Bar urges the members of the Council to reject Proposed Amendment 4. It is bad for families and bad for the District.
Jessica Rosenbaum and Lisa Vogel,
Co-Chairs Steering Committee
D.C. Bar Family Law Section
cc: Members of the Council of the District of Columbia