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Non-Parent Lawsuit for Reimbursement of Child Support

Posted on : September 12, 2016, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
Non-Parent Lawsuit for Reimbursement of Child Support

Non-Parent Lawsuit for Reimbursement of Child Support

Arizona law requires every parent to financially support their children. If someone else supports a nonpaying parent’s child, the law implies a promise from the parent for reimbursement. Can someone who provided support for a child sue a parent who failed to support the child? Do laches bar suit brought after a decade? In the case, Anonymous Wife v. Anonymous Husband, 739 P.2d 794 (1987) the Arizona Supreme Court addressed these questions.

Facts of the Case

In 1971, during the marriage of Wife and Husband, Wife became pregnant with another man’s child. It was born in 1972. The natural father did not offer to contribute to the child’s support. Wife and Husband raised the child as their own. However, this ended when Wife petitioned for dissolution of the marriage in 1981.

Non-Parent Lawsuit Reimbursement of Child Support.

Non-Parent Lawsuit Reimbursement of Child Support.

Husband denied paternity of the child and Wife filed a paternity complaint against both men. Husband filed a cross-claim against the natural father for one-half of the funds expended by the community to support the child. The trial court ordered the natural father to contribute to the support of the child. However, it held that neither Husband nor Wife would recover support payments they made from Husband.

The trial court reasoned that they had elected to treat the child as their own. Any claim against natural father, the court said, was time-barred. It rejected Husband’s claim for attorney fees. The court of appeals ruled that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to hear Husband’s cross-claim against the natural father.

It also denied the husband’s request for attorney’s fees. The trial court later denied Husband’s motion for reconsideration. It granted natural father’s request for attorney’s fees. The Arizona Supreme Court granted review.

Jennifer, thank you for being my attorney. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of my family court hearing. Everything you have done for me throughout this case reflects in the final ruling of the judge. You helped me keep my head together and taught me a lot about myself as a person. I learned so much about my life from observing and listening to you. I will take all the advice you gave me to continue taking responsibility for my choices, continue to put the kids' needs first, and always stay truthful. Your diligence, dedication, and persistence in my case made what seemed impossible, possible. You are a wonderful person and an amazing attorney and I am stronger and more confident because of you.
A Google User
A Google User
20:31 20 Sep 17
I just want to again thank the Firm for working with me all that it has. I could not have done anything without everyone's assistance. You, Chris and Stacey have been and continue to provide me with compassion and hard work towards my case. Also a very special thanks to Kip for taking my case in the beginning. Also continued support from him and his dedication to providing me with his expertise in this matter.
A Google User
A Google User
21:41 07 Nov 17
After interviewing several law firms, I came across Jennifer Shick, and her firm, who I hired to represent me for my Family Court case. Jennifer has extensive knowledge of the law and is determined to bring the truth to every issue involved within the case. Throughout my case, Jennifer was prepared meticulously as well as went above and beyond all of my expectations. Even when the other party tried to differ from the truth, lie to the Judge, and turn situations around, Jennifer remained attentive and provided substantial evidence to show the judge the facts as well as the proof to support what was the best interests of my children. Additionally, Jennifer helped me endure many difficult experiences, situations and inspired me to remain positive throughout the entirety of my case. Her kindness, compassion, and professionalism helped me through very difficult times and made the process feel a thousand times lighter on my shoulders. She truly has my children and my best interest at heart and I trust her perspective as well as her honesty on each and every aspect of my case. She lessened the burden on my shoulders and even when I felt like the case was not going to go in my favor, Jennifer was open-minded and reassured me that the Judge would, in fact, see the truth, which he did and the case went in my favor. After nine months of court, everything finally came together. I cannot declare how much Jennifer has been an outstanding attorney. She addressed each and every issue with diligence, she cares about her clients and their families. Jennifer genuinely cares about her clients and her dedication to the details of the case was remarkable. Overall, I am extremely pleased with Jennifer’s services and I am truly thankful that I was so blessed to have her represent my children and me. I highly recommend Jennifer as one of the best attorneys in Arizona and if the situation ever arises, I will definitely have her represent my children and me again.
Google User
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14:58 04 Oct 17
Dear Stacey and Kip, How can I ever thank you enough for helping me through the most difficult time in my life? I couldn't put into words my heartfelt gratefulness. You both were so compassionate and professional at every given moment throughout this process with me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You helped me to regain my freedom.
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16:03 22 Nov 17
I was a client of Attorney Kevin Park for the dissolution of a divorce in 2016. And since I had never had the need to hire an attorney before for any purpose, I was somewhat apprehensive of the process. But the very calm and professional demeanor of Mr. Park eased my fears. He adeptly answered all my questions and I clearly knew the process and what to expect. And the skilled manner he communicated with opposing counsel was perfect. When it came down to negotiating with my spouse’s counsel, I knew I had selected the best attorney for my situation. What I noticed and appreciated was that he was using just the right amount of pressure with opposing counsel as was necessary. If you find yourself in this situation, you will want a seasoned professional like Mr. Park on your side. I'm very grateful that he was my attorney and not the opposition!
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22:14 28 Jun 17
Chris is a smart and aggressive attorney for his clients. Chris always tries to reach a fair settlement of his cases. I’ve represented clients when Chris was the opposing counsel and while he is professional and amicable to work with, he does not back off on what he needs to do for his client
A Google User
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18:16 18 Sep 17
Kevin Park of Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys was just what I needed for my divorce. He was very approachable and personable. He was quick to recognize what I needed and provided it quickly and efficiently. I hope to never need a divorce lawyer again, but if I know anyone else who does, I will definitely recommend Kevin.
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19:22 23 Aug 17
I feel that Tracey Van Wickler is certainly one of the best family lawyers around. She is logical, intelligent, and truly cares. Tracey always does what is in the clients best interest, does it well, timely and with integrity. She is good at keeping her clients informed as to what is going on and clear in her communication both written and verbally. I have recommended Tracey to other people and will continue to recommend her. I recommended Tracey to someone who was having issues with their ex-wife and his response was, “I know how good she is because I went up against her and she ate me for lunch”. This same person was so impressed with her, he even recommended her to someone else, WOW, that is impressive! I am exceptionally happy with her attention to detail, her ability to explain things in ways that are easy to understand, as well as her ability to keep everyone focused on the most important things. I would recommend Tracey to anyone who may be in need of her services.
A Google User
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17:44 23 Jun 16
I retained Hildebrand Law after interview a number of firms in the valley. Working with Michael C. was incredibly easy and informative. My case progressed in such a organized and thought out way to ensure that my needs were met. Michael was incredibly proactive and was able to see far ahead into my case to steer clear of some roadblocks. I would not hesitate to recommend Michael Clancy, and Hildebrand Law in general, to anyone.
Bassam Ziadeh
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21:20 02 Apr 18
I have worked with Hildebrand law for about 8 years. They are always ready to serve, provide guidance and give you a few options. When they provide you options they also take the time to walk you through the pros and cons of each and give you a recommendation of what is best, but will listen to you and support whatever course you choose after making and educated choice. I’d recommend them to my closest friends and feel Chris Hildebrand is now a friend to me.
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21:53 27 Feb 18
Despite the unfortunate situation I found myself in, Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law helped me maneuver every step with professionalism, expertise, and even a sensitivity that was an added bonus.Chris and his staff helped me even when I didn't know I needed the help. In other words. . . they made sure we did not leave anything undone. And in the rare instance we needed the expertise of another professional, Chris knew exactly who to recommend.Chris also knew, because of his experience, what to anticipate down the road of litigation. That meant we were better prepared to meet the challenges head on, which lead to a more equitable and fair outcome. I appreciated that Chris did his best to meet my every need in a timely fashion, even if I had a simple question that required only a phone call or e-mail or if we needed to talk face-to-face.I highly recommend Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law, PC.
Sam Franchimone
Sam Franchimone
22:09 12 Sep 13

Trial Court’s Jurisdiction to Adjudicate Husband’s Cross-Claim

The only powers a divorce court can exercise are those set out in the law. The court of appeals acknowledged this. It reviewed the law and concluded that the trial court didn’t have jurisdiction to hear Husband’s cross-claim against the natural father. The cross-claim was for reimbursement of funds Husband spent to support natural father’s child.

The Arizona Supreme Court disagreed with that conclusion. It said that if the natural father is adjudged the child’s father, the court can order support payments. And Arizona law does not limit to whom back support payments can be ordered.

The husband may be among the persons to whom payment may be ordered under the law. Any other ruling on this issue would encourage piecemeal litigation.

 

Does Husband’s Cross-Claim Have Merit?

Natural parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children. What if a natural parent doesn’t financially support a child and another person offers support? In that case, the law implies a promise by the parent to reimburse the person supporting the child. Here, the natural father made no effort to financially support his daughter.

Husband helped Wife to support the child; although he was under no legal obligation to do so. The natural father is legally obligated to reimburse Husband for the money he spent to provide the child with necessities. Thus, the Court found Husband’s cross-claim had merit unless it was time-barred.

Is Husband’s Cross-Claim Time-Barred?

Generally, “time-barred” refers to legal claims made after the time set in the statute for making such claims has passed. Husband’s cross-claim is not barred by any statute of limitations. Husband could not have made a claim for child support before the issue of paternity was resolved. Arizona law does not limit the period an individual has to bring a paternity action.

Reimbursement of Child Support From a Non-Parent.

Reimbursement of Child Support From a Non-Parent.

The paternity complaints were filed here while the child was a minor. So was Husband’s cross-claim for reimbursement of child support. However, the cross-claim may be time-barred by laches. Laches bar claims not diligently pursued if the delay injured the other party. Here, laches will bar Husband’s cross-claim if he failed to act diligently and natural father was injured by the delay.

Husband knew before the child was born that the natural father was the child’s true father. Waiting so long before filing a claim suggests that Husband didn’t pursue his claim diligently. Natural father claims that he was injured by Husband’s failure to diligently pursue his claim. He alleges that, because of Husband’s delay, he did not set aside any money for the child’s support. He claims that making him suddenly pay 10 years of back support would put him in an unjust position.

The Court acknowledged that Husband’s late claim for support will disrupt natural father’s financial affairs. However, the Court found that equity here greatly favors Husband, who helped the child. Therefore, the Court declined to hold that natural father can rely on the equitable defense of laches.

What Claims Can Husband Make?

The court found that the amount Husband can recover from the natural father is limited. Husband can only recover the funds he spent for the child’s necessaries within three years before filing his cross-claim. The Court denied his request for attorney fees.

Disposition

The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the trial court judgment in part. It also reversed the judgment in part. The trial court must determine Husband’s share of community support amounts expended during three years before the cross-claim was filed.



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