Summary of the cause of action
Orange County Probation Department sent a bill of $16,372 to a juvenile’s mother for reimbursement of reasonable costs of support while her son was in detention. The County sought $23.90 for each day of detention and $2199 in legal expenses. Doing her best to pay the debt, Rivera sold her house and paid $9508. Unable to pay the rest, she was served, and a default judgment of $9905 was issued against her for failure to appear. Ms. Rivera eventually filed for bankruptcy. The County argued that because the bill was for reasonable costs of support, it was not dischargeable under bankruptcy. The judge and Bankruptcy Appellate Panel agreed and Ms. Rivera appealed.
Rivera’s debt was not a domestic support obligation. While the bill sought reimbursement for expenses that can ordinarily be described as support expenses, the principal purpose of the detention was public safety not son’s welfare. Judgment reversed.