In my current jurisdiction debts are "cancelled" after ten years unless the creditor has "reminded" the debtor about the debt before that ten year period. If, however, the credit sends a reminder every nine years, the debt will continue "for ever". Cancelled should be understand as "courts won't upheld the debt". If you go to a court with a debt it was eleven years ago you sent a reminder about, they will dismiss the case.

This is in a Western European country.

Now I wonder if this is common or uncommon in other western countries? The reason I ask is that I am in the process to try to collect a very uncommon and unordinary debt and need to "break through" this ten year cancellation period (To simplify a complicated story, a three year old kid lent an adult a substantial amount of money. Of course, the kid was unable to claim its right before the ten year period. The parents also failed doing this. Furthermore, all possible criminal acts in this case's statue of limitations are passed with good margin. I am not interested in comments on this situation.). One way to achieve this is to compare with other similar countries regulations for similar situations.

The question might be a bit broad but I don't expect anyone to describe the situation in 30 different European countries or 50 states in the US but rather something like "In Germany/Arizona it works like this...", similar in length and detail to the first paragraph in my question. Hopefully I get a few interesting leads that I can investigate further and in more detail.

  • I suspect that any attempt at getting the money repaid will be through other means. How did a child "lend" money legally? Did the debtor have legal access to a bank account that was owned/co-owned by the minor? Did the parents know? Pressure through (social) media might work.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jan 12, 2019 at 15:43
  • Be aware that limitation statutes on offenses against minors often don’t start running until the minor turns 18.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 3:51

2 Answers 2


In the UK the time limits for starting legal action to recover a civil debt are rather complex but for most things:

  • England and Wales: 6 years

  • Scotland: 5 years.

If you make a payment or admit to owing the money then this resets the clock. Once a court judgement is issued there is no time limit for enforcing it.


This site purports to list the statutes of limitation for debt collection in all 50 US states. It is specifically aimed at credit card debt, but in most states all debt is subject to the same limitations. Mortgages, however, generally have different and special rules.

Most periods are between 3 and 10 years, a few are longer.

The site notes that in some cases court judgements may have modified the limit, or the law may be unclear.

A specific contract may modify the limit in a particular case. Such a contrract would need to be in writing in most states.

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