Recently, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has issued a ruling that could have a direct impact on your divorce proceedings. Now, your child can seek money for college by intervening in your marital settlement agreement.
On August 11, the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a ruling in Weber v. Weber, vacating a ruling that was previously issued by the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas. The court ruled that Michael Weber can seek enforcement of a provision of his parent's divorce agreement that mandates his father to pay the costs incurred during his undergraduate and graduate school.
During the original divorce, it was determined in the settlement agreement that Beth and Mark Weber would equally share the cost of their children's education. Their son Michael was able to join the action as a plaintiff after filing a petition to intervene. Michael then filed a petition for special relief a few years later.
Mark Weber denied responsibility for Michael's expenses, and a trial court determined that Michael lacked standing, leading to a dismissal. This caused Michael to appeal to the Superior Court. His justification was that because of the prior permission to intervene, he did, in fact, have standing in the case. He also argued that he should be allowed to enforce the agreement because he was a third-party beneficiary.
The Superior Court's Ruling
Senior Judge Eugene B. Strassburger III wrote, "Despite the trial court's protestations to the contrary, a review of the record reveals that the issue of son's standing was never raised by either party during the litigation of the instant petition." Strassburger continued, "Neither son's request nor the court order granting it limited son's intervention to the pending special relief petition filed by wife...As such, son, who now enjoys all rights as a party to an action as an intervenor and a third-party beneficiary, may seek to enforce his parents' agreement because, under Pennsylvania law, a third-party beneficiary's rights and limitations in a contract are the same as those of the original contracting parties."
There was a similar case that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled upon in 2006, Chen v. Chen. The Superior Court noted that Weber v. Weber was different because of the Chen v. Chen case involved direct payments of child support, rather than a beneficiary.
Obviously, this is an important ruling by the Superior Court, as college payments can be expensive and can have a significant impact on your life during and after the divorce.