An interesting question was raised in an ABA Family Law Listserv discussion recently concerning whether a 1994 judgment of divorce dividing the parties' property (specifically a business) was still enforceable.
Here's what Ron said about trying to enforce a 21-year-old judgment. The point of his advice is: "People, don't sit on your rights!" A take-away for lawyers is this: You should always provide clients with information about the time limitations for enforcement of judgments so that they will take steps to enforce and not be left with an empty basket.
Ron Nelson said, "Simply put, an unexecuted judgment becomes dormant after five years, and shall remain dormant for an additional two years." Thus, a plaintiff may neglect his judgment for seven years, lacking a day, and then revive and put it in force for five years more.” Riney v. Riney, 205 Kan. 671, 680, 473 P.2d 77 (1970). If, however, a party neglects his judgment for over seven years, the judgment extinguishes and becomes unenforceable. The relevant statute mandates the Court to release the judgment of record upon request, stating that it “shall be the duty of the judge” to release a judgment which has exceeded the seven-year deadline. See K.S.A. 60-2403(a)(1) (emphasis added). The statute does not allow for courts to make findings as to whether a judgment may linger beyond the seven-year threshold, nor whether its enforcement is a discretionary issue. The Kansas Supreme Court has clearly explained what occurs when a judgment exceeds the seven-year threshold, whether or not a motion to release the judgment has been filed: “Once a judgment grows dormant . . . and is not revived pursuant to K.S.A. 1990 Supp. 60-2404, it becomes absolutely extinguished and unenforceable.” Cyr v. Cyr, 249 Kan. 94, 97, 815 P.2d 97 (1991).
In the last month, the Kansas Court of Appeals issued two decisions dealing with this issue in situations in which parties asked for the issuance of domestic relations orders years after the divorce decree that dividing those retirement benefits: Marriage of Hollingquest, https://kansas-divorce.com/unpublished/2015/0828hollinquest.pdf and Marriage of Moore, https://kansas-divorce.com/unpublished/2015/0911moore.pdf. The Moore case makes clear that:
“The district court cited no authority for its theory that a district court divides marital property without actually entering judgment. On the other hand, the Kansas Supreme Court has directly stated, ‘the division of property made by a trial court in a divorce is a judgment.’ Bank IV Wichita v. Plein, 250 Kan. 701, 706, 830 P.2d 29 (1992). In this regard, Lyle and Rose agree that a judgment is simply a ‘final determination of the parties' rights in an action.’ K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 60-254. We agree with the parties and conclude that the district court erred in its legal conclusion that the division of property— specifically Rose and Lyle's retirement benefits—was not a judgment. Dividing the marital property is a judgment, a final determination of the parties' interests in the marital estate.
“The district court also erred when it held K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 60-2403 applies only to money judgments. This dormancy statue applies to ‘any judgment in any court of record in this state.’ K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 60-2403(a)(1). Since K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 60-2403 "speaks of 'any judgment' of any court of record in this state,’ it "does not limit its application to a money judgment.’ Plein, 250 Kan. 701, Syl. ¶ 2.”
Every state has different statutes of repose (sometimes called statutes of limitation). Laypersons and lawyers need to be mindful about this time limits.
You may contact Ronald Nelson and see his credentials and resume' here: Ronaldnelsonlaw.com