A father who wanted to stop subsidizing rent for his 20-something kids had a victory in court — the judge threw out an agreement that he and his ex-wife made, requiring him to pay nearly $4,000 a month for his gainfully employed children’s living expenses.
According to a court ruling reported in the New York Post, Jeffrey Liberman began subsidizing the expenses of his son and daughter in 2010, when they both lived at home, in order to “assist them in getting on their feet and becoming financially independent.” When both kids moved out, Jeffrey and his then-wife, Julie, a stay-at-home mom, signed a contract stating that Jeffrey would continue to give each kid $1,900 a month. In return, the Post says, Julie agreed to try to resolve the couple’s marital problems.
The agreement, according to the Post, said Jeffrey would pay the monthly stipends until the children — now 28 and 26 — turned 30, moved in with a partner, or got married. But when Julie filed for divorce, Jeffrey pulled the plug on the financial help, even though none of the original conditions for stopping payment had been met. Instead, he gave each kid a lump sum of $10,000 and ended the monthly installments.
Julie brought her ex to court, hoping a judge would enforce the original agreement, but Justice Sharon Gianelli wasn’t having it, the Post reports, especially since the Liberman kids are both “gainfully employed … adults” who went to Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania on tuitions paid by their dad. She said the original agreement was “one-sided, invalid and unenforceable,” according to the Post.
Neither Jeffrey Liberman, his children, nor either of the party’s lawyers responded to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment.
Randall Kessler, a family law attorney and author of Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids and Your Future, who was not involved in this case, tells Yahoo Parenting he’s surprised by the judge’s ruling. While couples or ex-couples are not legally obligated to financially support adult children, Kessler says it’s unusual for a judge to throw out an agreement made between parents. “These are two adults who made a decision, they reached an agreement — who is the judge to say, ‘You didn’t know what you are doing’?” Kessler says. “The parents are the people who know the kids best, they reached an agreement, why not enforce it?”
Judges face so many family law cases that whenever parents do concur on something, judges usually enforce that contract unless it’s unethical or crazy, Kessler says. This agreement doesn’t fall in either of those categories, he adds. “Crazy would be, ‘I’m only going to give them college tuition money if they have straight A’s and will cut them off for an A-,’ and I’ve seen people try to get away with things far crazier than even that,” Kessler says. “This sets a bad precedent — if every one of my clients that reaches an agreement knows that one day a judge can throw it out, it could encourage other people to try and get out of agreements they don’t feel like abiding by anymore.”
In this case, Jeffrey’s lawyer, Evan Schein, says his client, who has a “good relationship with his children,” felt cutting them off was for their own good. “He did support them throughout their lives,” Schein told the New York Post. “But he did want them to be independent and he did feel like it was time.”
(Photo: Getty Images)