Liens are "holds" placed on property to ensure that payments are made. When a lien is placed on a property, the owner cannot liquidate that property until the lien is released. When ACTS receives funds from a lien payment for a noncustodial parent’s (NCP’s) case and posts them during batch processing, it notifies the responsible CSS caseworker. This topic contains information on the following subjects:
A general lien is a non-possessory interest created upon the real and personal property of any person who is delinquent in the payment of court-ordered child support. It can be used in conjunction with other enforcement remedies (NCGS 44-86, 44-87).
“Real property” is defined as land and, generally, what is erected, growing, or affixed to land. Houses, mobile homes (when secured to a foundation), and crops in the field are real property. “Personal property” is everything owned that is not real property, things of a personal nature, or that are movable. Furniture, cars, mobile homes (on wheels), harvested crops, and merchandise are personal property.
Advantages to this method of enforcement are:
The creation of a general lien might be all that is required for effective enforcement if the CSS caseworker believes that the NCP will pay his/her arrearages and satisfy the lien to clear his/her credit record or to be able to sell the property (or use it as collateral.)
Before requesting the establishment or execution of a lien, the CSS agency must weigh the factors involved to determine if this action is appropriate. Consideration should be given to the following factors:
Several sources are available to research the possible assets of the NCP:
Once CSS caseworkers have determined that a lien is necessary, they complete a Verified Statement For Claim Of Lien/Notice Of Filing Of Verified Statement For Claim Of Lien (DSS-4698/4699) for child support delinquency. The Verified Statement For Claim Of Lien contains the following:
Caseworkers then submit the Verified Statement and proof of property to the supervisor or the attorney for review. The Verified Statement is filed with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the child support was ordered. At the time of filing, the NCP is served with the Notice Of Filing by sheriff, certified mail, private process server, or publication. The return of service must be filed with the Clerk of Court. The notice must state how the NCP can satisfy or discharge the lien.
If the NCP is not served notice of the lien, this does not prevent execution on the lien. In accordance with NCGS 44-86(f), thirty (30) days after the lien is perfected, CSS can execute on the lien.
CSS must attempt service of the notice in one of the methods listed earlier in this section. It is the NCP's responsibility to keep CSS abreast of all address changes.
A lien is perfected when the Verified Statement is filed with the Clerk of Court. The Clerk of Court dockets and indexes the statement on the judgment docket and issues a transcript of the docketed statement to the Clerk of any other county as requested. The Clerk of Court receiving the transcript shall docket and index the transcript. The NCP can contest the lien by filing a motion in the cause.
A lien on personal property attaches when the property is seized by the sheriff. A lien on real property attaches when the perfected lien is docketed and indexed on the judgment book. This lien is superior over all subsequent liens and continues from the date of filing until discharged.
When a lien has been docketed, it has the following effect on subsequent enforcement actions. If a contempt action is taken following the docketing of a lien, the Order to Show Cause must request compliance only with arrearages accrued since the date of perfection of the lien. The agency attorney should advise the court that a lien is docketed and notify the court of the original and remaining amount of the lien. The court can then consider either only arrearages that accrued after the lien was docketed or arrearages that were included in the judgment and the arrearages accruing afterward.
A lien must be modified to reflect payments that are made on the arrearage amount entered in the judgment docket book. The Notice Of Reduction, Satisfaction, or Dismissal Of Judgment/Lien (DSS-4474) is used to reduce the docket book entry amount by the amount that is paid. Caseworkers file this Notice with the Clerk of Court in the county where the lien is originally recorded.
This notice should be generated only when the NCP has made payments that reduce the amount entered on the judgment docket book. When a court order modifies the judgment amount entered, caseworkers must provide the Clerk with a copy of the court order and state that the judgment entry must be modified to reflect the amount in the court order. The lien record is updated or deleted when appropriate.
“Execution” is the enforcement of an existing lien against the NCP’s property. It requires that the property be sold and the proceeds be used to pay the arrearage. At any time after thirty (30) days of receipt of the perfected lien, CSS can notify the Clerk of Court to execute on the lien. At the direction of the Clerk of Court, the sheriff must seize and sell the property and apply the proceeds to amount of the lien.
The Clerk of Court transmits proceeds received as a result of the lien execution to NCCSCC. Such payments are accompanied by a Child Support Payment Transmittal (AOC-CV-641) with a lien payment type checked on the form. This payment type does not prorate across multiple obligations.
A lien can be discharged through one of the following actions:
Full faith and credit is given to child support liens arising from another state when the CSS agency or other party or entity that is seeking to enforce the lien complies with the requirements of recording and serving child support liens and the requirements of foreign judgments.
For questions or clarification on any of the policy contained in these manuals, please contact your local county office.