Court Rules: A Promise Is A Promise

Be careful what you promise your kids — you may have to follow through.  When I was a young adult, my father told me that if I lost enough weight to fit into size 30 jeans, he would buy me a car.  I got close, but never made it before he passed away.  Someday, though, I will lose the weight and then I’ll visit my father’s grave and say “you owe me a car!”  Of course, I realize that it would take a miracle to get him to pony up my new ride.  For Dana Soderberg, on the other hand, all it took was a lawyer.

When Dana’s parents got divorced in 2004, her father, Howard, agreed to pay all her college expenses until she turned 25.  Shortly thereafter, Dana actually got him to put that in writing, in the form of a formal agreement.  Howard Soderberg paid for Dana’s schooling right up until her senior year when he refused to continue.  So Dana took him to court.  Now, in his defense, Howard claimed that his daughter was supposed to apply for student loans, provide receipts, and — oh yeah — go to class, none of which, he says, she did.

Still, a court ruled that Dad had to cough up the money, to the tune of $47,000.  I truly believe that parents should be on the hook for their kids all the way to adulthood, but I’m not convinced that parents should be required to fund a college education.  If you make a promise to do so, however, and even go so far as to put it in writing, it looks like you’re going to pay up, no changing your mind allowed.  So I guess you probably shouldn’t promise your kid a car unless you really intend to follow through.  As for me, I think my catchphrase, from now on, is going to be “I’m not promising anything.”

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