Countess Luann de Lesseps of “The Real Housewives of New York” has found herself at odds with her ex-husband, Count Alexandre de Lesseps and their adult children, Noel and Victoria, over a home purchased for $3.1 million in 2013.
According to People.com, when the Countess (as she is known on “Real Housewives”) and de Lesseps divorced, their divorce agreement included a provision that the Countess would put half the interest in the marital home into a trust to benefit the children. The lawsuit alleges that the Countess never put the house into trust and sold the home in 2014 for $8 million and the purchased another home for $3.1 million with the proceeds. The divorce agreement further stated that if the marital home was sold and reinvested, the children’s interest would survive. Now, the suit alleges that the Countess is threatening to sell the home for half the value and keep the proceeds for herself. The children and de Lesseps are suing the Countess and seeking an injunction to prevent the sale and a declaration that she is in breach of the divorce settlement agreement.
In California, Family Code §3901 states that the Court’s ability to award financial support of a child ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or graduates from high school. However, if the parents have contracted for support after that point, such as a written agreement to pay for college, then the Court has the ability to enforce this agreement. (Family Code §3587). Therefore, the right of parents, who are parties to a contract, to sue for enforce their contracts is clear in California.
However, healthy adult children have not been successful in suing their parents for support. For example, in Jones v. Jones (1986) 179 Cal.App.3d 1011, the adult child sued her father for college expenses on the grounds that he owed a duty of support because she was a person in need. The court determined that there had to be a finding that the adult child cannot support herself in order to allow an order of adult support. Interestingly, in In re Marriage of Smith & Maescher (1993) 21 Cal.App.4th 100, the Court found that where the parties had contracted for payment of college expenses, the other parent could sue to enforce that contract and, in dicta, discussed how the child could possibly succeed in raising a claim. However, in Smith & Maescher, the Court was also enforcing a choice of law provision and was applying Massachusetts law.
Since the Countess is a “Real Housewife” of New York and not California, who knows if she will be successful in a suit filed by both her children and ex-husband. In California, the Countess would be singing the blues on the After Show if the settlement agreement says what her ex-husband claims it says.
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