The statute of limitations for divorce may be critical to obtaining a divorce or enforcing divorce terms. A statute of limitations is a legal term that describes the period of time in which a person has an actionable case; after the statute of limitations has passed, a person usually cannot sue for damages even if a provable violation occurred. Every region has its own laws and regulations as to the divorce statute of limitations, making it crucial to understand all limitation laws before pursuing a lawsuit against a spouse or former spouse.
In areas that have fault divorce laws, the statute of limitations for divorce may play an important part in a divorce request. If a person knew his or her spouse had an affair and did not try to divorce until 20 years later, a judge might reasonably question whether the infidelity caused the divorce. The statute of limitations in fault divorce areas are meant to be common sense laws; if a person was content enough to live with the situation for many years, he or she may not have a legal right to bring it up in court and ask for damages or a favorable division of assets.
No-fault divorce regions tend to have fewer issues with statutes of limitations for divorce. Since the courts in these jurisdictions are not concerned with the reason for the divorce, issues such as infidelity are rarely even brought into a legal divorce case. If a person is getting a divorce due to physical abuse, he or she may be able to sue or request criminal charges against an abusive partner, but this will be a separate case from the divorce. In addition, there are statutes of limitations for domestic abuse cases as well.
In terms of divorce settlements, statutes of limitations for divorce may also apply. If a person agrees in the divorce settlement to pay off all the credit debt incurred during the marriage, he or she may be legally bound to do so. If he or she refuses to make the payments, the ex-spouse may be able to sue for credit damage and contempt of court, as long as the case is brought within the statute of limitations. Once the regional statute expires, the ex-spouse may have no legal recourse.
It is important to find out if the statute of limitations for divorce in the applicable reason take the discovery rule into account. The discovery rule is a common law concept that states that the statute of limitations begins when the crime or misconduct is discovered, not when it first occurred. For instance, if a wife has been having an affair and tells her husband after ten years, the statute of limitations begins on the date the husband finds out, not at the beginning of the affair. Since indiscretions can be hidden for decades, using the discovery rule may be vital to a favorable divorce or settlement.