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LegalGems, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 10484
Experience:  Experienced Family Law Attorney
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Former wife (div 26 years ago) threatening Contempt

Customer Question

Former wife (div 26 years ago) threatening Contempt Complaint for failure to pay college tuition totaling $10,000. She never mentioned issue until an email a year ago. She claims I paid from 1994 on and stopped paying in 2003 when I lost my job of 31 years. She worked as nurse prior to her retiring. I have no old bank records and can not get them due to extreme passage of time. Sep Agreement clearly states each party's contribution be in proportion to their THEN current income, which since 2003 has averaged just over $32,000. Ten year average prior to 2003 in $70's. We are both 70 y.o. and on Social Security and I just finished a 2 year contract job at $50,000 per year. She lives with husband in Bar Harbor. I've lived in a rooming house last 7 years, my IRA funds were exhausted 7 years ago and the only $$ to my name is about $12,000 in a savings account, with no other assets. I believe she feels I have $$ due to recent job and wants a piece of it. What options do I have as I can not provide bank records, am fearful the court will rule against me, even though I have very little available funds....thoughts?.......Thank You
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 year ago.

What state is this in regards ***** *****?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 year ago.

Thank you; a few minutes please.

Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 year ago.

Thanks for your patience.

If the agreement was not incorporated into the divorce decree, then the relevant statute of limitations would be 6 years:

Section 2. Actions of contract, other than those to recover for personal injuries, founded upon contracts or liabilities, express or implied, except actions limited by section one or actions upon judgments or decrees of courts of record of the United States or of this or of any other state of the United States, shall, except as otherwise provided, be commenced only within six years next after the cause of action accrues. - accessible here:

However, if the contract/agreement was incorporated into the judgment, then there is no applicable statute of limitations, because statute of limitations do not apply to judgments, as stated in the above code.

There is a different legal theory established in common law - laches:

Laches is defined as an unreasonable delay in making an assertion or claim, such as asserting a right, claiming a privilege, or making an application for redress, which may result in refusal.

The idea is based on equitable considerations- what is fair.

If a party sits on an action so that the other party (and other reasonable persons) would expect that, due to the delay in time, the party has no intent to enforce the agreement, and that enforcement would in fact be inequitable because of that exact time delay- then the court may deny the clalim.

So if a party stops paying on an obligation over 10 years ago, most courts would be compelled that it is inequitable to enforce the agreement/decree at this late date.

Also contempt requires a knowing and willful violation of a court order; if a party is unable to comply with the terms of the order, they will not be held in contempt because that does not satisfy the willful requirement - therefore inability to pay precludes a finding of contempt.

Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 year ago.

Did you have any questions on the above?

Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 year ago.

If you have any questions please post here- otherwise

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