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Massey v. Massey

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

June 20, 2019

Carolyn Pope Massey, Appellant,
v.
Freddie Massey, Appellee.

          Submitted May 15, 2017

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (DRB-1540-83) (Hon. Jennifer Di Toro, Motions Judge)

          Frederic W. Schwartz, Jr. was on the brief for appellant.

          Ashley McDowell, Stephanie Troyer, and Jonathan Levy were on the brief for appellee.

          Before Beckwith and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Nebeker, Senior Judge.

          BECKWITH, ASSOCIATE JUDGE.

         Appellee Freddie Massey was ordered to pay child support to his ex-wife, appellant Carolyn Pope Massey, at the time of their divorce in 1985. In 2014, Mr. Massey filed a motion to reduce arrears, which the trial court granted upon concluding that the statute of limitations barred the collection of the outstanding arrears. Ms. Pope Massey appeals the judgment vacating all of Mr. Massey's outstanding child support arrears. We affirm.

         I.

         Mr. Massey and Ms. Pope Massey married in 1969 and had four children before divorcing in 1985. Mr. Massey, the defendant in the divorce action, was ordered to pay $450 per month in child support as part of the judgment of absolute divorce. The parties' youngest child, Freddie Massey Jr., emancipated on his twenty-first birthday in October of 1999. Mr. Massey remained in arrears, which totaled approximately $49, 000 at the time of the judgment under review.

         In 2007, the District of Columbia Child Support Services Division intercepted Mr. Massey's federal tax refund in partial satisfaction of the arrears. On May 17, 2007, Mr. Massey, acting pro se, filed a motion to terminate the child support order and all arrears on the grounds that he was homeless and disabled and could not afford the payments. The motion was denied without prejudice on January 22, 2008. In 2012, Mr. Massey began receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, which the government withheld in part for child support. On December 3, 2012, Mr. Massey filed another pro se motion to terminate his child support obligations on the grounds of disability, unemployment, and his need for his SSDI benefits. This motion was denied on January 19, 2013.

         On July 8, 2014, Mr. Massey filed a third pro se motion to terminate his child support obligations, which was largely identical to the second motion with the addition of the handwritten notation "stature [sic] of limitations Oct, 1999." He subsequently obtained counsel from the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia and filed a new motion to reduce the arrears on statute-of-limitations grounds on October 21, 2014. At a hearing on May 6, 2015, the court heard argument from Mr. Massey, Ms. Pope Massey, and an Assistant Attorney General representing the District of Columbia.[1] On May 13, the court issued an order granting the motion and vacating all of the arrears as time-barred due to the statute of limitations. Ms. Pope Massey now challenges that order on appeal.

         II.

         When a court orders a party to pay child support, those support payments "constitute judgment debts as each installment becomes due and payable." Mayo v. Mayo, 508 A.2d 114, 115 (D.C. 1986); see also Lomax v. Spriggs, 404 A.2d 943, 948 (D.C. 1979) (holding that "each periodic payment for support becomes a separate money judgment as of the date of its accrual"). Such judgments are enforceable for twelve years "from the date when an execution might first be issued thereon, or from the date of the last order of revival thereof." D.C. Code § 15-101(a) (2012 Repl.).[2] After the expiration of those twelve years, "the judgment . . . shall cease to have any operation or effect" and is no longer enforceable "except in the case of a proceeding that may be then pending for the enforcement of the judgment." D.C. Code § 15-101(b).

         Mr. Massey's final child support payment became due no later than October 30, 1999, when his youngest child turned twenty-one. See Butler v. Butler, 496 A.2d 621, 622 (D.C. 1985) ("Child support obligations in the District of Columbia continue until age twenty-one.").[3] The trial court determined that by October 30, 2011-twelve years later-all of the judgment debts had expired. Ms. Pope Massey challenges that ruling on four grounds. Our review is de novo except where otherwise noted. See Daniels v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 100 A.3d 139, 142-43 (D.C. 2014).

         A. Waiver ...


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