Q: I just ran into my daughter’s friend’s parents and they wanted to know what I thought of the girls’ decision to quit school and get jobs. Apparently, the rent I’ve been paying for the girls to live in their condo during college is no longer a substitute for room and board but has been supplementing our daughter’s living expenses since last March when she left school and began working full time. My ex never informed me and neither did my daughter. So, I’ve been paying $2,000 per month “room and board” as well as $1,500 per month to my ex for child support for no reason. Our deal is that my ex controls the 529 account and has been in charge of using it for tuition and I pay room and board.
To make it worse, my ex was supposed to sell the house and pay my share of the equity once our daughter was emancipated. She clearly missed the spring market when real estate was really hot. What are my options?
A. First you should call your daughter and ask her directly what happened with school, why she didn’t feel she could come to you with this and how she likes her job. You need to see if she will admit what has happened and make sure you have the facts correct before you run off and file something in court. While I am sure you are angry with her, see what she truly needs for help from you at this point and offer to help her directly to supplement her income if she needs help with rent for a time.
Once you have confirmed the facts, you should immediately file both a complaint for modification and a complaint for contempt. Ask for a retroactive elimination of child support to the date your daughter dropped out and your ex failed to notify you. Ask to eliminate your court ordered obligation to pay room and board as well. You can ask to make that retroactive as well, although the judge may not like it because it pits you against your daughter rather than your ex.
On the contempt, ask that your ex be immediately ordered to list the house for sale. Also, you should hire a real estate broker to provide an opinion as to what the house would have sold for if listed in the spring market rather than now or even next spring if you cannot get before the judge during the traditional “fall selling season.” As a sanction for failure to do the right thing, ask that your ex be attributed with the extra sale proceeds the house would have fetched last spring and ordered to pay your share of the net sale proceeds at that higher amount.
One word of caution, if your ex gets in your daughter’s ear, you may find your daughter re-enrolled in school as of January and no longer emancipated. Another reason to go to your daughter first.
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