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Michigan Family Law Blog

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Is There a Statute of Limitations to Collect Alimony or Child Support?

Is There a Statute of Limitations to Collect Alimony or Child Support?

An action to enforce or collect child support or alimony is considered a civil action to enforce a court order.  There is a ten-year statutory period of limitations.  The ten-year period starts form the date that the last support payment is due under the support order regardless of whether or not the last payment is made.  For child support, generally, the date that the last payment is due is the child's 18th birthday.  For alimony, the final payment date would be the last date for which the court has ordered spousal support,

However, the statute of limitations is tolled (put on pause) when a motion to enforce the order is filed or at the time jurisdiction over the defendant is otherwise acquired.  In family law or divorce cases, the court retains jurisdiction over the proceedings (and the defendant) to change the amount of child support or enforce an alimony order by a separate statute.  Therefore, because the court has continuing jurisdiction to enforce such matters, it is as if the court "acquires jurisdiction" over the defendant even though it already had jurisdiction in reality.  This seems complicated but the end effect is basically that there is virtually no statute of limitations to collect unpaid child support or spousal support.

For example in a recent case a man sought to have collections against him for unpaid child support dismissed due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.  In that case, there were two children, one reached age eighteen (18) on December 25, 2005 and one on May 21, 2007.  The statutory limitations period for each child would have ended on December 25, 2015 and May 21, 2017 respectively.  However, because the court retained continuing jurisdiction to enforce the order through show cause orders for failure to pay support and issuing enforcement orders, the statutory period is effectively paused forever or until the court is able to collect the unpaid support.  So while it technically is not correct to say there is no statute of limitations in such cases, the effect is the same and actions to collect unpaid alimony or child support will virtually never be dismissed due to expiration of the statute of limitations.


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