Man's pact with wife to help pay grown kids' rent is unenforceable, court rules

A man’s agreement with his wife to pay his two adult children each $1,900 a month to subsidize their rent is unenforceable because he didn’t receive anything of value in return for his promise, a Nassau County, New York, judge has ruled. Judge Sharon Gianelli ruled for the man in an Oct. 6 opinion, the New York Law Journal (sub. req.) reports. The man, who is not identified in the opinion, agreed to pay the money in March 2014. The couple entered into the agreement in the belief it would help them maintain a harmonious relationship and reduce the need for litigation between them, the agreement said. The couple sought a divorce two months later. The husband and wife were the only parties to the contract, which required the monthly payments of $1,900 for each child until he or she turned 30. The child’s marriage or cohabitation with a romantic partner for at least six months would also end the payments. The couple’s children are ages 28 and 26, both attended Ivy League colleges, and both have jobs. Gianelli said the contract lacked consideration because it did not obligate the wife to do or give up anything. The wife had argued she was required to hold off filing for divorce, Gianelli said, but the contract contradicts that claim with this language: “”WHEREAS, the parties do not presently intend to separate or divorce …” The husband’s lawyer, Evan Schein, told the New York Law Journal that the decision shows the principle of consideration should not be taken for granted. “The decision reaffirms what every first-year law student is taught in contracts 101—a valid contract requires the essential element of consideration and this holds true in the matrimonial context as well,” he said. A lawyer for the wife told the New York Law Journal that the ruling will be appealed. The decision “calls into play all post-nuptial agreements that have a quantum of consideration,” she said.


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