Doctrine of Laches

Okay, now that I hooked you with a bad movie reference, lets talk about laches.  Laches has been defined in New Jersey family law as "… an equitable doctrine which penalizes knowing inaction by a party with a legal right from enforcing that right after passage of such a period of time that prejudice has resulted to the other parent, so that it would be inequitable to enforce the right."  Put simply, it is sitting on your rights and doing nothing about it for many years and when you do try to enforce your rights, the other party would be unduly prejudiced by the delay.

The issue recently came up in the case of Mayer v. Mayer, an unreported (non-precedential) decision released on January 25. 2013 involving a situation where the support payor overpaid child support for 7 years.  Though the overpayment was indisputable, the beneficiary of this overpayment fought repayment of it claiming laches and other equitable remedies as a defense.  The trial court did not address these defenses and simply ordered that the child support be reduced by $42 week to pay back this more than $35,000 overpayment and also entered judgment against the recipient.

Continue Reading Laches? We Don't Need No Stinking Laches!

Usually, the "you snooze, you lose" defense is not often a successful legal tactic.  However, in the recent unreported Appellate Division decision in Adler v. Adler the former wife’s application seeking unpaid child support, alimony and other obligations brought some 30 years later was denied essentially because she waited to long to collect.  To read the full text of the decision, click here. 

Pursuant to the Judgment of Divorce entered in 1973, the ex husband was required to pay $235 per week as undifferentiated child support and alimony until the oldest child was emancipated, at
which time the weekly support was to be reduced by $50 per week.  That same $50 reduction was to occur when each of the two younger children became emancipated. The JOD also obligated
defendant to pay: the mortgage, taxes, insurance and utilities on the marital home; all reasonable and necessary medical expenses for the children; health insurance premiums for ex-wife and the children; $3,500 to the ex-wife on or before August 15, 1973; $6,231.85 for various unpaid bills arising during the marriage; college tuition for the parties’ three children; and orthodontic treatment for the parties’ two sons.  Other than an enforcement Order from November 1973, there were no other Orders in the case.  In addition, in 1975, the Probation Department closed their account, though arrears existed at that time, due to direct payments being made.

Between 1975 and 1978, the ex-husband stopped making payments.  There was an enforcement motion filed in Maine in April 1978 and another Order entered later that year in Delaware County, New York that held the husband in contempt. Another enforcement motion was filed in late 1979 but their appears to be no further enforcement efforts taken thereafter.

Continue Reading She Snoozed, She Lost