Laches Defense In Past Due Child Support Action In California

In In re Marriage of Fogarty & Rasbeary (2000) 78 Cal. App. 4th 1353, 1356, 1363 [93 Cal. Rptr. 2d 653], the Second District Court of Appeal concluded that laches is available as a defense in a belated action for past due child support "in view of the facts that the defense of laches has historically been applied to California child and spousal support judgments, that the Legislature did not specifically rule out the defense of laches, and that it appears the Legislature, in considering the proposed legislation, believed laches would still be available as a defense . . . ." Upon analysis, we concur with and adopt the holding in Fogarty. Fogarty's conclusion was an extension of our holding in In re Marriage of Plescia (1997) 59 Cal. App. 4th 252 [69 Cal. Rptr. 2d 120] (Plescia) that the defense of laches is available to thwart a stale attempt to enforce a judgment for past due spousal support. (Fogarty, supra, 78 Cal. App. 4th 1353, 1356.) In Plescia, we explained that "the defense of laches is derived from the maxim that 'the law helps the vigilant, before those who sleep on their rights.' (Civ. Code, 3527.) This has been restated as 'equity frowns upon stale demands [and] declines to aid those who have slept on their rights.' In practice, laches is defined as an unreasonable delay in asserting an equitable right, causing prejudice to an adverse party such as to render the granting of relief to the other party inequitable. Thus, if a trial court finds: (1) unreasonable delay; and (2) prejudice, and if its findings are not palpable abuses of discretion, a finding of laches will be upheld on appeal." (Plescia, at p. 256.) Fogarty describes the doctrine of laches in like terms. (Fogarty, at p. 1359.)