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Supreme Court Applies NRS 11.190(1)(a) to Family Court Decisions

If you were awarded property or money in a family court, you should know there is a time limit to enforce the judgment or decree. Last fall the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in Davidson v. Davidson, 132 Nev. Adv. Op. 71 (2016), that a court cannot enforce a judgement, including an obligation arising from a decree of divorce, if more than six years pass from the creation of the obligation. This means if you wait more than six years to go to court to force payment on a judgment, the trial court will not have the power to enforce the award against the other party.

In Davidson, the divorce court awarded the husband the house. The wife was to sign a quitclaim deed giving her interest in the house to the husband, and, in exchange, the decree provided that the husband would pay to the wife one half of the equity according to an appraisal. The wife signed and gave the husband the quitclaim, but the husband did not pay the wife. The wife waited more than six years to bring an action in Family Court to enforce the judgment of payment for one half of the equity. The wife argued that NRS 125.240 allowed family courts to enforce its orders without any time limit.

The husband argued that the the six-year statute of limitations set in NRS 11.190(1)(a) applied to family court judgments. Therefore, since more than six years had passed, the court should rule against his ex-wife.

The Nevada Supreme Court agreed with the husband:

We hold that the six-year statute of limitations in NRS 11.190(1)(a) applies to claims for enforcement of a property distribution provision in a divorce decree entered in the family divisions of the district courts. Like any other claim “upon a judgment or decree of any court of the United States, or of [any court of] any state or territory within the United States,” see NRS 11.190(1)(a), actions to enforce the provisions of a divorce decree must be initiated within six years. We further hold that when a litigant seeks to enforce a provision in a decree awarding him or her half of the equity in marital property, the statute of limitations begins to accrue when there is evidence of indebtedness, which occurred in this case when Dawnette delivered the quitclaim deed to Christopher. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the district court.

Had the wife acted within six years and proved she had not received the money, the court would have entered a judgment in her favor and she could have executed on the husband’s properties and wages. The court could have also held the husband in contempt of court. But neither of these remedies were available to her because the statute of limitation had run.