Court Rules in Favor of Husband, Determines He Was Not Obligated to Financially Support His Gainfully Employed Adult Children after Divorce

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, LLP has announced that the firm successfully represented the defendant husband in a case in which he was financially supporting his adult children, although they were working full-time jobs, after his wife divorced them. The court ruled that he was not legally obligated to pay his children’s rent and the contract in which he would continue to make these payments was unenforceable.
In J.L. v. J.L. 201429/2014, the husband, who owned a pharmacy, started subsidizing the rent for his 28-year-old daughter and 26-year-old son in 2010. Three years later, he and his wife started separation and divorce talks. In March 2014, in the hopes of saving the marriage, the couple entered into a post-nuptial agreement in which the husband would pay $1,900 a month to each child to help pay the rent on their Manhattan apartments. The payments would end in the event one of these situations occurred: the children’s marriage, his or her cohabitation “with a romantic partner” for six months, or their 30th birthday.
In May 2014, two months after the agreement was made, the wife filed for divorce on no-fault grounds after 33 years of marriage. In February 2015, the husband wrote each of his children a check for $10,000, stating this was a lump-sum payment and this was the last time he would be financially supporting them. The wife moved to have her husband comply with the rules of the rental agreement, but the husband requested to declare the agreement null and void since he was sending the money as gifts to his children and was under no legal obligation to continue making these payments.
On October 19, 2015, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Sharon Gianelli ruled that the agreement was binding on the husband but not on the wife, but the terms of the agreement “fail to identify any value to be conferred upon defendant/husband as the quid pro quo for his undertaking the payment obligation.” She also found the consideration in the agreement was “conspicuously absent” since the contract required action and/or forbearance as well as a bargained-for exchange of value and benefit from each side. Justice Gianelli determined the agreement to be “one-sided” and the specific value or benefit for the husband “plainly absent from the terms of the agreement,” making the agreement unenforceable.
Evan Schein, Partner, and Kelly Fissell, Associate, Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, LLP, represented the husband. “The court’s decision shows that the principle of consideration cannot be taken for granted and that a valid contract requires the essential element of consideration,” Mr. Schein said. “This holds true in the matrimonial context as well.”
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Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, LLP, established in 1994, concentrates in divorce and family law. The firm is based in midtown Manhattan and serves clients across the greater New York area, including Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. For more information, call 212.867.9123 or visit