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Defenses – Statute of Limitations – Support Arrearages, § 893.40 – Accrual upon Entry of Support Judgment

State v. Walter Junior Benjamin, 2003 WI 50, affirming 2002 WI App 89
For Hamilton: Robert A. Ramsdell


¶3. Walter’s case raises questions about the application of statutes of limitations to child support collection actions. The issue presented is whether the State, as an assignee of Walter’s deceased former wife, filed a timely action to collect child support arrearages in 2000. … Thus, the specific questions of law are: (1) Does Wis. Stat. § 893.40 (2001-2002) apply to independent actions to collect child support not paid after July 1, 1980, and (2) if § 893.40 applies, when does the 20-year limitations period in the statute begin to run?

¶4. We hold that Wis. Stat. § 893.40, which became effective on July 1, 1980, governs the time within which a party may bring an independent action to collect child support arrearages that accumulated after the statute’s effective date. In addition, we conclude that, under the statute, an action brought to enforce a child support judgment must be commenced within 20 years of the date when the judgment is entered. The period of limitation begins to run upon entry of judgment, irrespective of whether any payment under that judgment has been missed.

¶5. The last judgment ordering Walter to pay child support was entered on November 9, 1977. Consequently, the State had until November 9, 1997, to commence an action against Walter to collect arrears that accrued after July 1, 1980. Because the State’s action to collect arrearages was not initiated until May 2000, it must be deemed untimely and barred under Wis. Stat. § 893.40.


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