Laches Defense Child Support California
Laches is an equitable defense to the enforcement of stale claims.
It may be applied where the complaining party has unreasonably delayed in the enforcement of a right, and where that party has either acquiesced in the adverse party's conduct or where the adverse party has suffered prejudice thereby that makes the granting of relief unfair or inequitable. (Conti v. Board of Civil Service Commissioners (1969) 1 Cal. 3d 351, 359 [82 Cal. Rptr. 337, 461 P.2d 617]; Wells Fargo Bank v. Bank of America (1995) 32 Cal. App. 4th 424, 439 [38 Cal. Rptr. 2d 521].)
Nationwide, the authorities are split as to whether laches is an appropriate defense for a judgment for past due child support.
The jurisdictions that disallow laches do so on the basis that judgments for spousal support and child support are the same as civil judgments obtained in a court of law, and thus not subject to an equitable defense. (Annot. (1981) 5 A.L.R.4th 1015, 3a, 6; 24A Am.Jur.2d, supra, Divorce and Separation, 1063, p. 466.)
Historically, California has been in the group of states that has allowed laches as a defense.
In fact, case law has held that lack of diligence alone, even without a finding of prejudice, was sufficient to disallow the enforcement of a judgment for child support. (Lohman v. Lohman (1946) 29 Cal. 2d 144, 148-149 [173 P.2d 657]; Di Corpo v. Di Corpo (1948) 33 Cal. 2d 195, 199 [200 P.2d 529]; Levene v. Levene (1952) 109 Cal. App. 2d 155, 157 [240 P.2d 730]; Rupp v. Rupp (1954) 129 Cal. App. 2d 23, 24 [276 P.2d 144].)
Former Civil Code section 4384 (now Fam. Code, 291) provided that lack of diligence in enforcement of a judgment for child support was a factor for the court to consider in allowing enforcement of a family court judgment.
Additionally, some cases held that the creditor-spouse had waived the right to enforce a support judgment. (In re Marriage of Paboojian (1987) 189 Cal. App. 3d 1434, 1439 [235 Cal. Rptr. 65]; Graham v. Graham (1959) 174 Cal. App. 2d 678, 683-684 [345 P.2d 316].)