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  1. #1

    Default Using a Laches Defense to Child Support Arrears, Contempt Motion

    My question involves child support in the State of: Florida
    Family Law - Child Support - Laches

    -1992 Final Judgement awarded $700/mo Child Support to Primary Parent (mother). CS paid monthly by allotment until Jul 1993.
    -1993 Verbal agreement and 17 yo Child did move 5000 miles to live with "New Primary Parent" (father). Written agreement went unsigned and no legal modification sought.
    -1994 Child reached 18 years old and continued to live with Father through (1997).
    -2009 Father petitioned court for modification/termination of alimony. Mother countered with motion of contempt for unpaid child support (1 year), even though the child lived exclusively with Father.
    ($8400 plus 18 years interest 12% = $64,596)

    Father now retired living modestly on military pension and Social Security.
    Mother now retired living on alimony, pension, social security and $850,000 trust.

    So, in your opinion, is this one of those rare cases that Laches defense is applicable?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Laches - 18 Years - Motion for Contempt

    A successful Laches defense (even in FL) is very rare. The parent needs to speak with an experienced attorney.

    But just to clarify - Mom is, because Dad is filing to stop alimony, now attempting to collect the 1 year's worth of child support plus 18 years' worth of interest on top of that?
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  3. #3

    Default Re: Laches - 18 Years - Motion for Contempt

    That is correct, Dogmatique. the mother now enjoys a significant change in circumstances ($850,000 trust), hence the Father petitioned to terminate alimony. Mother then motions for contempt for (that) 1 years alimony (even) when the child lived with father. Mother refused to sign a legal agreement changing primary parental custody but allowed the (minor) child to travel 5000 miles -one way-, and still remained silent about the $700/mo child support for 18 years.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Laches - 18 Years - Motion for Contempt

    Why didn't Dad file to modify child support?
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  5. #5

    Default Re: Laches - 18 Years - Motion for Contempt

    Dad didn't modify Child Support because he understood there was a verbal agreement, and lived 6 times zones from Jurisdiction. Dad sent a cover letter and legal agreement to Mom for signature just prior to the Sons departure, but she ignored it. The cover letter contained language supporting a mutual agreement in changing primary parental custody (using the term "as discussed") and a one-way plane ticket. The Son (2 weeks shy of 17) made the flight and lived with Dad beyond his 21st Birthday. Dad and Son remained together 5000 miles from Mom and Court jurisdiction. Since Mom was mum and did not object to Son's change in parental custody at the time, Dad believed a modification was unnecessary/incontrovertible since the Son was obviously in his custody.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Laches - 18 Years - Motion for Contempt

    The absolute two WORST words in the world related to child support are "verbal agreement".

    They are not binding in that they are not ENFORCEABLE. If one wants a child support agreement that is worth more than a kleenex, it MUST be done through the courts. Otherwise, situations just like this one arise. Yes, the courts can be a royal pain in the tukus - but they are the only way to protect yourself when the other parent suddenly decides to change the game plan on you - and then asks the court to apply a decade or more of past "differences". Same goes for custody agreements - if the custodial parent changes, a modification is NEEDED to protect your position, to LEGALLY address who is responsible for what level of support, etc. What seems to be easy and "obvious" up front often can severely muddy the waters later, and create mires that can become incredibly expensive, very quickly.

    Court orders are your friend.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Laches - 18 Years - Motion for Contempt

    You point is well taken. Good advice for next time, but... is this one of those rare cases where Laches is applicable ?

  8. #8

    Default Re: Laches - 18 Years - Motion for Contempt

    ...But, further -

    Is the Circuit Court so rigid about Court Orders that they will not (even) consider mitigating circumstances towards enforcement 18 years after the fact? That seems unreasonable - from what I have read in Florida case files, the Appeals Courts address mitigating circumstances - Don't the Circuit Courts (even) consider them?

    These Mitigating Circumstances seem to favor the application of Laches under Florida law.

    Court ordered change of Primary Parental Custody - or not - the minor child did (in fact) live with the Father.

    Verbal agreement -or not- the Mother did not contest the custody change, nor the Child Support payment until Father petitioned for Alimony Mod.

    The Father did attempt to get an agreement in writing.

    The Father did not reside in the jurisdiction (just another disadvantage/obsticle dealing with a legal issue from 6 time zones difference).

    An Unreasonable delay of 18 years for enforcement of Child Support, coupled with the payment plus 12% interest - is more than (just) prejudice.... it's punishment.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Laches - 18 Years - Motion for Contempt

    I think this is up in the air, and an attorney is needed.

    That is, of course, if it's worth it at all.

    It may well cost more than the eventual pay off.
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  10. #10

    Default Re: Laches - 18 Years - Motion for Contempt

    This case could become famous as one of the rare Laches victories. I'm surprised I can't get a straight answer - or even one "on point" in one instance. Here, it sounds like, or (hints of) an Appeals Court will decide. Apparently, ExpertLaw believes the Judge will not go against a CS Court Order, regardless of circumstances. Although, the (4) requirements are met in this case to defend Laches in Florida.

    I thought it was clear that both parties are represented by attorneys, since petitions and motions are filed. The Father's attorney is prepared to offer Laches as a defense. The purpose here (on Expert Law .com) was to gather general opinion(s), not necessarily legal advice. The original question was "in your opinion, is this one of those rare cases that Laches defense is applicable?"

    As stated earlier, this is a contempt motion preceded by a petition to modify alimony. It's not a question of is it "worth it". It is presented to the court by the Mother, making the matter unavoidable.

    Further, I don't understand - "It may well cost more than the eventual pay off" ? Cost to whom? The pay off (to the Mother) will either be $8400 - or $65K with interest - or nothing. It doesn't cost her anything to make it an issue. Legal fees are being paid regardless.

    I believe the Contempt Motion harms the Father (financially and morally) - criteria for the Laches defense (Prejudice). $65K, along with a damaged reputation for being a Dead Beat Dad if he loses, is also harm. I believe the Father meets the four criteria for Laches defense in Florida. We'll see in June.

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