Case law update:  Retirement Statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations is a law that defines how long a person has to bring a legal action.  In some cases, it simply is time to move on.  For example, the current statute of limitations on unpaid child support is 10 years from the date the last payment is due.  So, if your child is 30 years old and the last support payment was 20 years ago, it is time to move on.


In the context of a Michigan divorce, the statute of limitations law is found in Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5809.  As a general rule, the statute of limitations is 10 years from the entry of a Judgment or Order.  Prior to the expiration of the 10 year period, a Judgment or Order can be renewed for another 10 years.  In other cases, the statute of limitations can be tolled or extended.  For example, partial payment on a debt may restart the running of the statute of limitations.

However, if nothing is done to enforce a Judgment or Order after 10 years, the Judgment or Order the statute of limitations prevents enforcement.

On July 11, 2017, the Michigan Court of Appeals in the case of Joughin v. Joughin, Michigan Court of Appeals Docket No. 329993 made an exception to the 10 year statute of limitations rule in circumstances related to qualified retirement plans.  Qualified retirement plans are tax deferred plans like a 401(k) or a pension plan.  These plans are governed by a Federal law called ERISA and require a post-divorce order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to be enforced.  Unfortunately, many less experienced or qualified attorneys neglect to file a Qualified Domestic Relations Order and more than 10 years elapses before the client figures out the problem without a remedy.

In a split decision (2-1), the Michigan Court of Appeals in the Joughin case ruled that the 10 year Michigan statute of limitations does not apply to qualified retirement accounts.

This new exception to Michigan’s statute of limitations will protect claimants in this unique circumstance.

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I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades.  The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.

By:  Daniel Findling

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