Carpender v. Sigel
Even if there was an inexcusable delay by the moving party, the court will not find that party guilty of laches if the prejudice to the opposing party was not the result of the moving party. The defendant, Kenneth Sigel, filed a motion for contempt against the plaintiff, Anne Carpender, for her failure to pay educational and extracurricular activities expenses for their minor son in accordance with the court's judgment dissolving their marriage, which incorporated the parties' separation agreement. The trial court denied the motion. The defendant appealed, claiming that the court erred in finding that the plaintiff's withholding of consent to pay for college expenses was reasonable and that laches, waiver and estoppel applied to the reimbursement of extracurricular activities expenses for the child. The Appellate Court affirmed and reversed the judgment, in part. There was evidence in the record to support the trial court's factual findings that the plaintiff did not believe that the parties' son was ready to attend a specified university, that he then was not a good student and that a different school would be better. Given the evidence, the court had a reasonable basis on which to conclude that the plaintiff did not unreasonably withhold her consent to their son's enrollment at the university. Therefore, there was no abuse of discretion. However, the trial court improperly found that laches, waiver and estoppel applied to the reimbursement of extracurricular activities expenses. The plaintiff did not present evidence to satisfy all elements of these doctrines. At the hearing, after learning that the son had participated in the activities seven to eight years prior to the filing of the motion for contempt, the court concluded that the claims for those expenses were waived. The court made no factual findings with regard to its legal conclusions. No evidence was admitted to find that the plaintiff was prejudiced by the defendant's delay or that she changed her position in reliance on the defendant's actions or that the delay was inexcusable. Consequently, the court improperly concluded that the reimbursement claim was barred by laches. For waiver, there was no evidence or testimony on which to conclude that the defendant explicitly or implicitly waived his right to seek reimbursement.