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Future promises to pay can be dangerous in divorce settlements

For Texas couples seeking a divorce, negotiating a settlement agreement that is future-proof can be difficult without an attorney. There are many possible misconceptions one can have regarding future payments as one father recently found.

For a parent, there is a legal obligation to support children until they become emancipated. Usually, this support obligation ends when the child becomes an adult, but there can be circumstances where the obligation continues in some form. For instance, a child support agreement could include promises to pay beyond this time of emancipation. Experts warn that one should be careful not to overpromise in such an agreement. Not putting limits or conditions on these child support agreements could lead to unintended financial consequences.

This happened to one New Jersey father who signed a divorce agreement that contained a provision about paying for post-graduate education for his children. The father would be responsible for half of the education costs. When his estranged daughter was accepted to Cornell Law School, he would have been on the hook for $112,500 over the course of three years. The father refused to pay but lost a recent court decision on the matter. The court's ruling was held up on appeal, stating that it was not in the business of rewriting agreements. The contract clearly stated that he was responsible for the tuition without condition, the court said.

This is an important lesson for any parent entering into a divorce settlement. It may be helpful to have the counsel of an attorney in order to look out for these and other divorce legal issues. The attorney may be able to help craft a settlement that makes future promises to be fair to both parents and the child.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Divorce Settlements and Higher Education", Brad Reid, March 13, 2014

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