Statute of Limitations – Defined – Let’s say two people get divorced, and 20 years later one of them finds out the other somehow had a secret bank account during their bitterly-contested divorce. Unbeknownst to them, that spouse got away with intentionally hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As shameful – and illegal – as this scenario is, can that former spouse be sued 20 years later?
If you said no, you are correct. While the laws differ widely from state to state and from case to case, there are strictly-followed laws called statutes of limitations that forbid prosecutors or a court of law from going after someone for an act committed more than a specified number of years ago.
There are three main reasons for this:
- Ensuring the person bringing the claim acts within a reasonable timeframe
- Protecting a defendant from being sued over and over again over a longer period of time
- Eliminating the threat of key evidence getting lost over time
Essentially, a statute of limitations limits how long you have to bring a claim against another person. If you wait too long to file a claim – which in the above case is 20 years – a judge has no choice but to throw the case out. This is true even when the legal clock on your potential claim expired 24 or 48 hours earlier. It can be a rough deal to hear you have no claim, but it happens.
Below are a few statutes of limitations for family law cases:
- Possession and access (contempt) – Six months after the child becomes an adult or six months after the right of possession and access terminates.
- Child support (contempt) – Two years after a child becomes an adult or two years after support obligations terminate.
- Fraud – Four years.
- Invasion of privacy – Two years.
- Property division (property divided in divorce decree) – Two years from the date the divorce decree was signed or becomes final after appeal – whichever is later.
- Assault – Two years. This does not include sexual assault, which is five years.
It is always a good idea to talk to a lawyer about your situation. Give our knowledgeable staff here at Nelson Law Group, PC a call if you have any further questions regarding this – or any other – issue. Our staff is always available.
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