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ChildofDivorce

Parent divorce decree

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My parent divorced in the late 80's early 90's.  After very lengthy battle about everything, thanks to dad.  My mother's divorce decree stated that instead of alimony, she was to get a property + each of the two children from that marriage were to have their father pay for 1/2 the college expense.  

 

The property was settled early.  My father (pretty much) helped with my community college without too much complaint (not half, but I am fine).  However, my sister's university expense was not.  My father stopped paying after the 1st or 2nd year.  Hence, my sister acquired (on my mother's credit) a very large amount of debt.  My mother is unable to finance much, at this point.    My mother still harbors severe animosity regarding the issue toward my father and my sister.  She has told me that she will go after his estate when he dies, if he dies before her.  This is a problem because I am one of the executors of the estate, AND I have 5 other siblings from a previous marriage, who are not part of this issue at all.  The other executor is my older half sister from father's prior marriage.

 

I really wish she would consider filling, arbitrating, or something, now.  However, with the amount of time and money my father wasted with the divorce, I understand why she does not.  I have expressed my desire for her to do this.  She has said that, "She will look for the 'right thing' to be done when he dies."  Which just leaves me empty inside, I hate being in the middle with divorce, and here I am again...

 

My questions are many:

1st- Is there a time limitation to my mother filing in this matter?  

 

2nd-  Is there a claim that can legally be filed against my dad's estate by my mother for this decree, even at over 20 years old?

 

3rd- If the debt is paid off before either party dies, can the estate still be held?

 

This is really going to tear the family ties up, between the first set of children and the second set of children.  My dad will be dead, and they will look at it that my mom is taking their inheritance.  They will say, "I was not part of that divorce.  I did not get my university or college paid for. Why should I give up my inheritance because she had to go to such an expensive school?" 

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25 minutes ago, ChildofDivorce said:

My mother's divorce decree stated that instead of alimony, . . . each of the two children from that marriage were to have their father pay for 1/2 the college expense.

 

Is this provision sufficiently small that you could quote it in its entirety (with any names removed or edited)?  Did the divorce and all relevant events occur in Maryland?

 

 

27 minutes ago, ChildofDivorce said:

my sister's university expense was not.  My father stopped paying after the 1st or 2nd year.

 

How long ago was this?

 

 

27 minutes ago, ChildofDivorce said:

She has told me that she will go after his estate when he dies, if he dies before her.

 

Is "she" your mother or your sister?  Why wouldn't "she" go after him now?  I guess you don't know.  Waiting until he dies seems somewhat ridiculous.

 

 

29 minutes ago, ChildofDivorce said:

This is a problem because I am one of the executors of the estate, AND I have 5 other siblings from a previous marriage, who are not part of this issue at all.  The other executor is my older half sister from father's prior marriage.

 

You're not the executor of anything until he dies.  That said, if you view the potential for litigation between your mother and/or sister and your father's estate as a problem, you're free to decline appointment as co-executor (and, in fact, there are lots of reasons why having multiple executors might not be the greatest idea in the world).

 

 

31 minutes ago, ChildofDivorce said:

I hate being in the middle with divorce, and here I am again.

 

You're not in the middle of anything.  Aside from the fact that this involves multiple members of your family, this has nothing to do with you.

 

 

31 minutes ago, ChildofDivorce said:

Is there a time limitation to my mother filing in this matter?

 

Probably, but there's no way to be sure without knowing the applicable state.

 

 

32 minutes ago, ChildofDivorce said:

Is there a claim that can legally be filed against my dad's estate by my mother for this decree, even at over 20 years old?

 

This is basically the same as the prior question.  Keep in mind that, while the decree might be 25+ years old, the alleged failure to comply apparently occurred sometime more recently (as noted above, you didn't say when your father stopped paying, how old your sister was at the time of the decree, etc.).

 

 

33 minutes ago, ChildofDivorce said:

If the debt is paid off before either party dies, can the estate still be held?

 

Huh?  Whether or not the student loan debt incurred by your mother and/or sister gets paid has nothing to do with your father's potential liability.

 

 

35 minutes ago, ChildofDivorce said:

This is really going to tear the family ties up, between the first set of children and the second set of children.

 

All the more reason to decline to serve as executor.  By the way, I find it a little odd that you didn't mention any efforts to persuade your father to pay.  If he nominated you in his will as a co-executor, you're presumably still on good terms with him....

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I don't know what your parents' divorce decree says, but there's bound to be an assumption, explicit or otherwise, that the "college expenses" incurred by your sister and of which your father is expected to pay half, are reasonable and proper.  It would behoove your mother to go to (arbitration, court, whatever) and get a judgment for the amount he must pay while he's still alive.  You wouldn't want to wait until probate, when your father's other family will have an opportunity to argue against the legitimacy of the debt.

 

As co-executors, you and your counterpart must see that all legitimate debts incurred by your father while he was alive are paid by the estate before anyone from either branch of the family can inherit.  With a judgment in the record, there'll be little chance for a valid argument against it, and the family need not be "torn up".

 

Note that nobody has an inheritance while Dad is alive, so nobody is actually losing anything.  How he manages his money (including  signing off on the terms of the divorce) is his own business and nobody else's.  If the other family members don't like what he did, they'll just have to deal with it.

 

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Hi @ChildofDivorce

 

Welcome to the Answers community and thanks for your question. Sorry to hear about your situation, which sounds really painful. Although the divorce judgment is many years old by this point, it is most likely better to attempt to enforce the provisions now, while your father is still alive, rather than waiting until he passes away. I realize it is painful for your mother and it may not be something she wishes to pursue. However, after your father dies, there will be other creditors to pay, and a family law obligation may be lost in the shuffle. The family court will also lose jurisdiction over the matter, and it will be transferred to probate court. You and your mother may want to consider consulting with a family law attorney to discuss the case.

 

Best of luck and keep us posted!

The FindLaw.com Team

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Yes Maryland...

College debt is owned by my youngest sister and co-owned by my mother, last debt added would have been around 2007.  Yes,both (mother and sister) pushed for him to pay for the debt at the time occurrence, about 2004-2007. He would not budge.  Legal action would be required for him to meet his agreement.  I am unaware of any "reasonable and proper" verbiage, as I do not have an actual copy of the decree.

 

The whole thing is frustrating.  I wish it could be resolved before death.  It is not something that I personally want to deal with in addition to a funeral and settling other estate matters.

 

Thank you all for your responses.

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