LAW OFFICES OF STEVEN D. SMITH, P.C., Appellant,
DANA CECCARELLI, Appellee.
from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, No.
3AN-14-05219 CI Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Mark
D. Smith, Law Offices of Steven D. Smith, P.C., Anchorage,
D. Cook, Law Office of Carl D. Cook, P.C., Anchorage, for
Before: Fabe, Winfree, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.
Stowers, Chief Justice, not participating.
superior court order required the Child Support Services
Division (CSSD) to audit the child support and spousal
support accounts of a divorced couple. The audits revealed
that the agency had collected too much child support from the
ex-wife and that the ex-husband owed her the overpayment as
well as arrearages in spousal support. The ex-wife's
attorney filed an attorney's lien on money in the
ex-husband's possession that the attorney claimed was
owed to his client, then filed a separate action to enforce
the lien. The ex-husband paid the money to CSSD, which turned
it over to the ex-wife.
superior court granted summary judgment to the ex-husband on
the attorney's lien claim, concluding that the lien was
invalid because the ex-husband was required to pay the money
for the overpayment and the spousal support arrearages
directly to CSSD. The attorney appeals.
conclude that the attorney's lien satisfied the
requirements of the governing statute, AS 34.35.430(a)(3). We
therefore reverse the superior court's summary judgment
order and remand for further proceedings.
FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
and Dana Ceccarelli are divorced. Michelle initially had
custody of their two children, but Dana took full custody
while Michelle spent time in prison. Michelle and Dana have
had disputes over child and spousal support for over ten
years. Michelle moved for back payment of child support but
in October 2005 the superior court denied her motion, then in
November 2005 denied her motion for reconsideration.
June 2007 Superior Court Order
the superior court decided that it had based its November
2005 order on an incomplete record, omitting an October 2005
Notice of Adjustment from CSSD. The November 2005 order had
concluded that Dana was current on his child support
obligation, but it relied on a CSSD audit that predated the
Notice of Adjustment. The Notice of Adjustment revealed that
Dana was in arrears in the amount of $11, 244.02 at the time
he took custody of the children. The court ordered that CSSD
take into account these newly determined arrearages in
offsetting the parties' CSSD accounts.
June 2008 Child Support Order
2008 order required Michelle to pay Dana monthly child
support. The order erred in its child support calculation,
however, and it failed to expressly state that it did not
supersede the superior court's 2007 order taking into
account the child support arrearages Dana owed Michelle.
Because CSSD failed to credit Michelle with the $11, 244.02
in arrearages, her child support payments began to accrue
immediately and for the wrong amount. These errors meant that
Michelle incorrectly accrued approximately $18, 000 in child
support arrearages while she was imprisoned.
CSSD's Seizure Of Michelle's Funds
Michelle was released from prison, CSSD's accounts
continued to show that she owed Dana approximately $18, 000
in unpaid child support. Dana asked for CSSD's help to
recover this money after Michelle received a settlement in a
personal injury case following a bike accident. CSSD
apparently served an order to withhold and deliver on
Michelle's personal injury attorney,  and in May 2012
CSSD seized a total of $18, 000 from the settlement funds and
from Michelle's bank account. CSSD used the seized funds
to pay Dana the child support arrearages that Michelle
appeared to owe him.
March 2013 Order Modifying Child Support
March 2013 the superior court issued an order modifying the
June 2008 child support order and requiring CSSD to adjust
Michelle's and Dana's accounts for two reasons.
First, the court found that the June 2008 order should have
stated "that previous orders issued by the court were
not intended to be superseded, " and that because of
this omission CSSD erroneously failed to credit
Michelle's account with the $11, 244.02 in child support
arrearages Dana had been ordered to pay her in 2007 - an
error that persisted in 2012 when CSSD seized Michelle's
funds. The superior court expressly reinstated the June 2007
order and required that CSSD audit the parties' accounts
again and adjust them accordingly.
2013 order also found that the 2008 order had the wrong
amount for Michelle's monthly child support obligation.
The court required CSSD to adjust her child support account
to correct for the error in the 2008 order; it further found
that she was physically incapacitated because of her bike
accident, that because of her incapacity she should pay only
the minimum child support obligation of $50 per month, and
that her account should be adjusted to reflect this amount
"as of May 2012 until further order of the court."
March 2013 order did not expressly require the parties to
repay any excess funds to CSSD. It simply instructed CSSD to
"notify the parties' attorneys" should the
"credit plus the sums seized from [Michelle] in ...