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Husband allowed to renege on promise to pay grown kids’ rent

Dear Clients and Friends,

The moral of this message is that one should talk with their family law attorney about any written or unwritten agreements made with your spouse in the context of a divorce. As you will see below – even if you have a signed contract it may be providing you with more disappointment and uncertainty than you are interested in having.

A divorcing couple in New York signed an agreement saying that the husband would pay their two adult children $1,900 apiece each month to help cover their rent, until they turned 30 or began living with a significant other. The parents made this agreement because they thought it would help keep them on good terms with each other and make their divorce less contentious.

Later, the husband broke his promise – he gave each child a $10,000 lump sum and told them they had nothing else coming. The wife then went to court to enforce the agreement.

How much the children actually needed the cash is up for debate, since they both graduated from Ivy League universities and were gainfully employed. But a promise is a promise, right?

Not so fast.

In business, a contract isn’t valid unless there is “consideration.” That means that each side must give up something of value. A contract in which one side agrees to do something and the other side does nothing in return is not enforceable.

The New York judge in this case said that this concept is valid not only for business contracts, but also for family agreements. As a result, since neither the mother nor the children had promised anything in return for the rent payments, the husband did not have to keep making them.

Contact us for a free phone evaluation of a Family law, Real estate or estate planning legal challenge you, yours may have in this coming new year and thereafter, of course.



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