Divorced but not paid off; time is not on your side
‘Time is money.” Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote is more true now than it ever has been before. Franklin also said “You may delay, but time will not.” In light of a recent Nevada Supreme Court Decision, these quotes should be boldly presented as warnings in all newly entered decrees of divorce.
Imagine, after months of discovery, motion practice, and hearings regarding visitation and custody, as well as the division of property, you are finally able to escape a wrecked marriage and put the past behind you.
Also imagine that the court has ordered in the decree of divorce that your ex-spouse (“Ex”) retain the marital home and pay to you your share of the equity upon the Ex’s refinance of the mortgage. Then, not too long after the finalization of the divorce, the Ex is laid off from work, and the housing market crashes.
This makes it nearly impossible for the Ex to refinance.
Being sympathetic to the Ex, and wanting to wait for a recovery of the housing market, you let six and a half years pass by. The Ex has found a job and the housing market is on the rebound. However, when asked to refinance the mortgage on the property, the Ex flatly refuses. Your divorce attorney files a motion to hold the Ex in contempt for failing to refinance and pay you off. Then, to your amazement, the Judge rules in your Ex’s favor because you took too much time to enforce the decree.
This shocking and unfair result is a reflection of the current status of Nevada law on the issue. Most family law attorneys were in disbelief of the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision in the case Davidson v. Davidson. Davidson is a most unfortunate case in that it promotes unfairness where ex-spouses were previously getting along or acting out of consideration for the other’s circumstances.
The Nevada Supreme Court determined that Dawnette Davidson had forfeited her rights to pursue her share of the equity in the marital home because she did not renew her Decree of Divorce within six years of the date the Judge signed it. Notably, after Dawnette and her ex-husband had divorced, they reconciled for nearly five years, but never remarried. The Nevada Supreme Court declared that the six year statute of limitations that applies to the enforcement of judgments also applies to Decrees of Divorce. The Supreme Court noted in its decision that Dawnette could have avoided the harsh result of providing her ex-husband with a double windfall by renewing her Decree of Divorce under NRS 17.214, but she “failed to avail herself of the statute’s protections.”
So the bottom line is this – if you are divorced and you have not received all of the property, cash, or other interest set aside to you in your decree of divorce, you should see an attorney about renewing your decree before it’s too late. As well, if you are to receive a portion of the Ex’s retirement, and the Ex has not yet retired, do not sit on your hands; make sure you protect your interests.
Time is money and it won’t wait for you to protect yourself. Regardless of how unfair the result may be, unless Davidson v. Davison is overturned or rejected by the Nevada Legislature, the courts are not going to help either once the six year statute of limitations is passed. Don’t find yourself out of time.
Michael G. Millward, Esq., is an estate planning and business attorney. Michael previously practiced with Cassandra Jones, Esq., at Heritage Law Group, and started his own firm, Millward Law, Ltd., in April of 2017. He is a resident of Douglas County, and practices in state and federal courts in Northern Nevada. He can be reached at 775-600-2776.