On September 15, 2014, I posted on the statute of limitations for past due child support in Utah Paternity cases, which is four years prior to the commencement of an action. Utah Code Section 78B-15-109. This presumably applies before a court order for child support has been entered.
If a child support order has been entered by the court, and the obligor falls behind on his or her child support obligation, the statute of limitations for collecting the past due support is four years after the date the youngest child reaches majority, or eight years from the date of entry of the sum certain judgment entered by a tribunal, whichever is longer.
Utah Code Section 78B-5-202 (6) (a) provides as follows:
A child support order or a sum certain judgment for past due support may be enforced:
(i) within four years after the date the youngest child reaches majority; or
(ii) eight years from the date of entry of the sum certain judgment entered by a tribunal.
(b) The longer period of duration shall apply in every order.
(c) A sum certain judgment may be renewed to extend the duration.
Seeley v. Park, 532 P.2d 684 (Utah 1975) was decided under the prior section
for child support enforcement actions, UCA § 78-12-22, and provides that the statute of limitations applies to past due unpaid installments for alimony or support of minor children, and therefore execution may issue only for the arrearages accumulated within the limitations period.
Utah courts have placed a judicial gloss on this statute of limitations. As stated in the case of State Dept. of Human Services v. Jacoby, 1999 UT App. 052, 975 P.2d 939 (App. 1999):
We note that in examining a statute of limitations provision, we consider not only the legislative intent but also the gloss judicial precedent attaches to the statute. See Hackford v. Utah Power & Light Co., 740 P.2d 1281, 1283 (Utah 1987) (stating that “a judicial interpretation of a statute becomes a gloss on that statute that is, in effect, part of the statute”).
In Utah, the statute of limitations for the collection of child support arrearages is eight years. See Utah Code Ann. § 78-12-22(2) (Supp.1995). We have placed a judicial gloss on section 78-12-22 and applied a two-step analysis in interpreting Utah’s eight year limitations period on the collection of arrearages. First, an action for arrearages must be commenced within eight years after the date the last installment was due; and, second, a party seeking arrearages may only collect past due amounts going back eight years. See Coulon v. Coulon, 915 P.2d 1069, 1073 (Utah Ct.App.1996). In other words, we have interpreted Utah’s eight-year statute of limitations to operate not only as a time period within which an action for child support arrearages must be commenced, but also as a limit on the number of years for which a party may collect unpaid support–regardless of the number of years the obligor is in arrears. See id. (holding only child support arrearages which had “accrued within the statute of limitations” could be collected).
Other cases that support this conclusion are: Coulon v Coulon, 915 P.2d 1069 (1996), Seeley v. Park, 532 P.2d 684 (1975), Openshaw v. Openshaw, 144 P.2d 528 (Utah 1943), Beesley v. Badger, 66 Utah 194, 240 P. 458, and Cole v. Cole, 122 P.2d 201 (Utah 1942).
For the person receiving child support, it is helpful to obtain a sum certain judgment for child support arrears. This judgment will then be good for eight years, regardless of when the youngest child reaches age 22. In addition, if the judgment has not been collected within the eight year period, the person will want to make a motion to renew the judgment to extend its duration.
It is also important to realize that many states have adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). If the parties live in different states, the party seeking to enforce a support order may register that order in a state other than the issuing state, and seek to enforce the registered order in the state where it is registered. In seeking to enforce child support arrears under a registered support order, the statute of limitations of this state (Utah) or of the issuing state or foreign country, whichever is longer, applies. This post does not comment on the statutes of limitation of any other state, some of which may be longer or shorter than the limitations period in Utah.
This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.