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Family Law — statute of repose

Wisconsin Supreme Court


Family Law — statute of repose

The 20-year statute of repose in sec. 893.40 applies to QDROs, but it did not begin to toll until the WRS was authorized to accept them.

“In order to interpret the relevant statutes to avoid ‘absurd or unreasonable results,’ and in order to ‘constru[e] each in a manner that serves its purpose’ as we are bound to do, we hold that Johnson’s motion is not barred by the operation of Wis. Stat. § 893.40. The judgment contained a provision that required the filing of a QDRO with the WRS, and it was not until 1998 that legislation authorized WRS to accept such orders for marriages such as this one that were terminated in 1989. It would be absurd and unreasonable to construe the statute of repose in such a way that it would begin to run at the time of a judgment with regard to a provision that assigned Masters’ interest contrary to existing law, which was and continued for the next nine years to be that WRS pension interests were not assignable. Construing the statute as starting to run as to the pension provision at the point when the provision was no longer contrary to law is a way to retain the statute’s limiting function ‘in a manner that serves its purpose.’ Under the circumstances present in this case where a statute precludes a provision in a judgment, the statute of repose cannot begin to run as to that provision until the legislature changes the law such that the provision can be carried out. In this case, that change went into effect on May 2, 1998, and the statute of repose will bar actions on such a provision only after May 1, 2018. We therefore reverse the order of the circuit court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

Reversed and Remanded.

2011AP1240 Johnson v. Masters

Crooks, J.

Attorneys: For Appellant: Owens, Joseph F., New Berlin; Riedel, Debra K., New Berlin; For Respondent: Colque, Erik Inti, Waukesha

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