Facts: When Husband and Wife divorced in 2004, their marital dissolution agreement required Husband to pay alimony in futuro of $950 a month. He was also required to pay various additional expenses for Wife.
Notably, the marital dissolution agreement required Husband to notify Wife if his address changed.
Eleven years later, Wife petitioned for contempt and sought to recover $234,519 in alimony arrearages—with interest—plus her attorney’s fees.
The proof showed that Husband received substantial income during the time he was not paying his court-ordered alimony. He also moved several times and did not notify Wife of his new mailing addresses.
Wife testified that she unsuccessfully sought to locate Husband for many years.
The trial court awarded Wife a judgment of $114,000 in past-due alimony ($950 a month for 10 years). She was also awarded $1000 in attorney’s fees.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.
Even when the 10-year statute of limitations bars enforcement of a judgment, the doctrine of laches may be applied when the party is guilty of “gross laches.”
Gross laches requires prejudice to the defendant, such as losing evidence, death of witnesses or parties, and “failure of memory resulting in the obscuration of facts.”
Husband argued Wife’s 10-year delay unfairly prejudiced him.
The Court rejected this argument:
The record indicates that Husband moved from Bristol, Tennessee to Cornelius, North Carolina; he then moved to Denver, North Carolina, and then another house in Denver; and then Husband moved to Florida. The marital dissolution agreement obligated Husband to notify Wife of these several mailing address changes, but he never fulfilled that obligation. Husband’s several address changes and failure to fulfill his obligation to communicate his address to Wife renders Husband’s argument that Wife waived, or voluntarily relinquished a known right, untenable.
The Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
K.O.’s Comment: I don’t understand why Wife was not awarded postjudgment interest and more than a mere $1000 in attorney’s fees.