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Divorce Appeal Impacts Enforceability of Judgments for Noncontractual Money Obligations

Posted on Friday, May 18, 2018

Recently, the Speaker Law Firm obtained a published opinion on the post-judgment of divorce case of O’Leary v O’Leary,  ___ Mich App ___ (Docket 333519), which has broad application beyond the family law context.

In O’Leary, the parties’ judgement of divorce required the marital home to be sold and “the indebtedness or profit shall be shared equally.” The husband finally sold the home 6 years later for a loss. The husband waited for several years ­­­––as he was paying off the short sale–– before he sought to enforce the judgement of divorce by seeking reimbursement from his ex-wife for her one-half share of the indebtedness. The wife argued that the motion to enforce was barred by the 10-year statute of limitations; the husband argued that the time to enforce did not begin to accrue until he sold the home for a loss. The trial court agreed with the wife and denied the husband’s motion to enforce. 

 

The Court of Appeals examined the interplay of MCL 603.5809 (limitations) and MCL 600.5827 (accrual).

 

Section 5809 provides:

 

A person shall not bring or maintain an action to enforce a noncontractual

money obligation unless, after the claim first accrued to the person, …the person commences the action within the applicable period of time prescribed by this section…[T]he period of limitations is 10 years for an action founded upon a judgment…from the time of the rendition of the judgment or decree… [Emphasis added by Court of Appeals opinion]

 

Section 5827 provides:

 

Except as otherwise expressly provided, the period of limitations runs from the

time the claim accrues. The claim accrues at the time provided in [MCL

600.5829 to MCL 600.5858], and in cases not covered by these sections the claim

accrues at the time the wrong upon which the claim is based was done regardless

of the time when damage results. [Emphasis added by Court of Appeals opinion]

 

 

The Court of Appeals held in a published opinion that the judgement of divorce was subject to a 10-year statute of limitations contained in MCL 600.5809. However, the Court of Appeals concluded that the accrual provision of MCL 600.5827 triggered the 10-year limitation period, such that the husband’s claim was timely filed under 600.5809 because he filed within 10 years of selling the house for a loss. 

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