Statutes of Limitations Between Spouses

Divorce proceedings are the dissolution of a marriage contract. Money is usually a large part of divorce proceedings. In addition to current resources and assets that need to be divided, there may also be the question of debt obligations one spouse may have to the other. Frequently, people miss out on money they are owed because they believe that too much time has gone by to collect. Maybe a financial agreement was made before the marriage began and they think it’s too late to do anything about it.

It’s preferable if agreements are in writing but a verbal contract is still a contract. You may not even realize that the financial agreement that you made with your spouse is a contract and that you can still collect on it. Financial agreements can originate before, during, or after the marriage.

Before Marriage

Nowadays, most people live together before they get married. The act of living together creates financial entanglement. Even if separate accounts are kept, there are written or verbal agreements surrounding who is responsible for paying which bills or what portion of the bills each person will pay.

Some people become more entangled by setting up an arrangement where one person pays a greater portion of the bills with the agreement that the other person will take over primary responsibility after completing their education and securing employment. Or a loan may be given for the purchase of a vehicle or college tuition. If the two people never get married, the civil statute of limitations regarding collections applies as with any oral or written contract regarding debt repayment. In most cases, the limitation may be two to three years.

During Marriage

When people enter into a marriage contract, the law changes. In California, debt collection statutes of limitations are put on hold from the date of the marriage to the date of the separation. Agreements made during the marriage can be collected after the marriage is over even if the civil statute of limitations has passed. For example, if the money loaned for the car wasn’t paid back in full before the marriage, once they are legally married, the statute of limitations for collections is paused until they separate. The debt may be able to be collected as part of the divorce proceedings.

After Marriage

  • Divorce settlements. The statute of limitations to re-open a divorce settlement agreement is three years. Once that time period has passed, you can no longer re-visit the division of assets agreed to in the settlement. The divorce settlement agreement is a binding contract for the dissolution of the marriage and cannot be broken or re-opened to contest once the statute of limitations passes.
  • Spousal support. In California, alimony is referred to by the courts as spousal support. Once spousal support has been ordered by the court, it is open to collections until it has been paid in full. There is no statute of limitations regarding collecting spousal support. You may petition the court at any time to request assistance enforcing the payment of support until the obligation has been satisfied in full.
  • Child support. There is no time limit on the collection of child support in the state of California. Once the obligation to pay child support stops, no additional payments will be due. However, if there are missing payments, they can still be collected. At the court’s discretion, up to 10% interest may be added to unpaid child support payments.

If you’re contemplating or going through a divorce, you need an attorney experienced with the financial nuances of California family law. Boyd Law’s attorneys have the expertise and experience to protect your current and future assets.