Friday, April 14, 2006

Case Law Development: Fear of Domestic Abuse Defeats Laches Defense in Child Support Actions

The Minnesota Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion upheld a trial court's determination of child support arrearages extending back 13 years.  The case involved a couple who had a child in 1988.  In 1990, Mother obtained an order of protection against father for his acts of domestic abuse and also filed for child support.  While the support action was served on Father, the court never issued the order.  Father went to another state and had no more contact with Mother or Child.  In 2003, the county filed a child support action against father which mother joined, and the district court gave it the same case number as the 1990 action.  Father argued that the Minnesota Statute which allows liability for past support to be retroactive only 2 years before commencement of the action prohibited an arrearage award going back to 1990.  The court disagreed and entered an order for $106,496.  Father also argued that mother had abandoned her original 1990 action and that laches should bar the claim.  The court rejected both arguments on the grounds that mother's failure to pursue the child support action was not voluntary in that "appellant's domestic abuse created a reasonable fear in respondent that constituted excusable neglect in pursuing her claim."

Ramsey County v. Taylor, 2006 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 325 (April 11, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited April 13, 2006 bgf)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/04/case_law_develo_19.html

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