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DIVORCE 5: When does the 10-year statue of limitations period begin for a JOD?

In this case, the parties married in 1996, and their judgment of divorce entered in 2003. At the time of their divorce, the parties owned a mobile home together in Michigan. With regard to this marital home, the judgment of divorce stated that Plaintiff and Defendant shall continue to own the martial home as tenants in common. The house is to be continuously offered for sale until sold. Defendant shall make the house and lot payments as long as she resides in the home. At such time as Defendant moves or the house is sold, the indebtedness or profit shall be shared equally.

The mobile home eventually sold on October 21, 2009; but, the sale did not cover the balance owing on the loan. After the sale, the parties had a deficiency. According to plaintiff, between the sale of the home and January of 2015, he paid the outstanding balance on the loan, while defendant paid nothing.

On May 4, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion to enforce the judgment of divorce. In particular, plaintiff argued that, under the terms of the judgment of divorce, defendant bore equal responsibility for the outstanding indebtedness on the loan balance following the sale of the property.

Defendant filed an answer to plaintiff’s motion, and she also filed a motion for summary disposition. Defendant asserted that plaintiff’s motion to enforce the judgment of divorce was time barred by the 10-year statute of limitations because the judgment of divorce entered in 2003 and plaintiff did not bring his motion until 2015.

Following the hearing, the trial court granted summary disposition to defendant, concluding that plaintiff’s claim was time barred by the 10-year statute of limitations in MCL 600.5809(3) because the judgment of divorced entered in 2003 and plaintiff did not seek to enforce the judgment until 2015.

On appeal, the only issue is whether plaintiff’s motion to enforce the judgment of divorce was timely. The parties agree that plaintiff’s claim is subject to the 10-year statute of limitations, but they disagree about when the limitations period began to run. Plaintiff argues the limitations period began to run, when the home sold in 2009, making his motion to enforce the judgment in 2015 timely. In contrast, defendant contends that the limitations period began to run when the divorce judgment was rendered in 2003 and that the limitations period expired in 2013.

The Appeal Court has previously determined that a claim relating to a property settlement contained in a judgment of divorce, including claims relating to the disposition of real property, are subject to the 10-year statute of limitations.  Further, they have also concluded that the 10-year statute of limitations on a claim relating to a property settlement in a judgment of divorce begins to run at the time the claim accrues and that the claim accrues when the money owing under the property settlement comes due.

Although the judgment of divorce entered in 2003, plaintiff’s claim did not accrue until 2009 when the home sold and defendant failed to pay her half of the outstanding indebtedness on the home loan. Because the claim accrued in 2009, when the marital home sold in 2009, his motion to enforce the terms of the judgement of divorce in 2015 was not time barred.

Our family law attorneys at Aldrich Legal Services have helped family law clients across southeast Michigan, including in Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland counties, enforce the terms of judgment of divorce. Contact us at our law firm in Plymouth. We can help you determine if the terms of your judgment of divorce are being followed correctly.

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