Civil Contempt Dismissed Because of Statute of Limitations in Charlotte, Tennessee: Proctor v. Proctor

June 8, 2020 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: Husband and Wife divorced in 2005. Their marital dissolution agreement (MDA) required Husband to pay $50,000 to Wife. He must pay $25,000 in the first year and then $5000 each year for the next five years.

Shortly after the divorce, Husband and Wife resumed living together for the next five years. Husband did not make the payments required by the MDA.

Eleven years after the divorce, Wife petitioned to hold Husband in civil contempt for not making the payments required by the MDA.

statute of limitations tennessee

Husband countered by suing Wife for breach of contract, alleging that she refused to accept the payments required by the MDA and claiming that she was “enriched by the provision of housing, food, insurance, and other necessities of life” during the five years they lived together after their divorce.

The trial court rejected Husband’s argument that paying for Wife’s day-to-day living expenses should offset their divorce agreement, noting that such a finding “would constitute a ‘relationship for pay’ which is both contrary to public policy and the laws of the State of Tennessee.”

As to Wife’s claims, the trial court found Husband was not in contempt because he did not act willfully. But Husband was ordered to pay the full amount to Wife. After crediting Husband for buying Wife’s car and some furniture, and paying some of her uncovered medical expenses, Wife received a judgment from Husband for $33,710.85.

Husband appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court.

A statute of limitations sets the maximum time for suing after an event occurs. When the time specified in a statute of limitations passes, a lawsuit is time-barred.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 28-3-110(a)(2) requires that “actions on judgments and decrees of courts” be filed within 10 years after the cause of action accrues. The cause of action accrues, and the statute of limitations begins to run, when the plaintiff has a cause of action and the right to sue.

A cause of action on a judgment accrues upon the entry of the judgment in the trial court.

The Court found Wife’s action was time-barred by the 10-year statute of limitations because her action accrued when the parties divorced 11 years ago:

Under the terms of the MDA, Husband’s entire financial obligation to Wife, arising from the division of their marital property, was $50,000, which would be paid within five years of the date the judgment was entered; this obligation was made the order of the court in the final decree. The fact that the parties agreed that the judgment would be paid in installments did not militate against the finality of the judgment or extend the statute of limitations to pursue an action to collect the judgment. Wife did not take any action to enforce the judgment within 10 years of its entry, nor did she seek to extend the judgment pursuant to Rule 69.04 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure or to register the decree to establish a lien on Husband’s property pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 25-5-101(b)(1). We conclude that the cause of action accrued [] when the divorce decree was entered.

* * * * *

Wife’s petition for contempt, filed more than 10 years after entry of the judgment she sought to enforce, was barred by the statute of limitations set forth at Tennessee Code Annotated § 28-3-110(a)(2).

The Court reversed the trial court’s judgment and dismissed Wife’s petition for contempt.

Proctor v. Proctor (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, May 27, 2020).

Civil Contempt Dismissed Because of Statute of Limitations in Charlotte, Tennessee: Proctor v. Proctor was last modified: June 7th, 2020 by K.O. Herston

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