Pennsylvania’s Superior Court recently heard a case questioning whether or not a child could demand a parent pay his educational expenses. The case, Weber v. Weber, involves a couple that divorced in 2000. In 2007, the mother sought that the courts require the father to pay a portion of the children’s educational expenses. The child in question filed a petition to intervene. The court granted his request.
Almost ten years later, the same child that sought to require his father pay a portion of college expenses filed a petition for special relief, requesting the father pay his portion for both undergraduate and graduate education expenses.
To pay or not to pay? The courts disagree.
According to the lower court, the son was not allowed to file the petition at all. Essentially, they stated that he lacked standing. Standing is a legal term that refers to whether or not a person can file the suit. If standing is present, the suit can move forward. If not, the suit is dismissed.
The Senior Judge for the Pennsylvania Superior Court disagreed with the lower court. He stated that as a third-party beneficiary the son could “seek to enforce his parents’ agreement.” “Under Pennsylvania law,” he continued, “a third-party beneficiary’s rights and limitations in a contract are the same as those of the original contracting parties.”
It is also important to note that the language of the child support agreement came into play. The payments in question were not made from one parent to the other. Instead, the payments were made directly to the benefit of the child.
What can other parents learn? The case provides an important lesson for many.
This case highlights the need for a carefully crafted child support agreement. A boiler plate agreement found online may not meet your family’s needs. A tailor made agreement designed specifically for your situation is more likely to survive a legal battle and better ensure that the best interests of the children as well as your own needs are met.