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Brandon M.
Brandon M., Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
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Experience:  Attorney experienced in all aspects of family law
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I have been trying to get divorced from my spouse for three

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I have been trying to get divorced from my spouse for three years now. Him and his parents are claiming that I owe them on a loan from money that his parents gave to us in 2005. There was no promissory note signed though many transactions between my ex and his parents over 2005-2007 from our joint account. Am I obligated to pay his parents any money? His mother has cancelled checks to my ex as "evidence"

Brandon M. :

Hello there.

Brandon M. :

Thank you for your question. What were the terms of this alleged loan?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

His parents had given us $1100 to pay off credit card consolidation companies. His dad stated that he wanted paid back. My ex was making payments to them in different increments. That was in 2005. Now that I'm divorcing their son, theyre demanding $12,500 from each

of us.

How do they get from an $1,100 loan in 2005 to $25,000 total AFTER incremental payments???
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Well throughout the marriage, his mother would give my ex money and vice versa. We had an investment company of which I was a silent partner. Evidently, his mother gave him money to fix up the apartment. That amongst the other monies that she gave to him is why they're demanding more money

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Can I be held accountable for paying anything if there was no promissory note and just their word against mine?

Well, that's what we're trying to figure out. I feel like I'm still getting incomplete information because you are now saying that your spouse's mother would give him money throughout the marriage, and vice versa, suggesting that this exchange of money constituted a part of the $25,000 claimed. But when asked what the terms of the alleged loan were, you said that it was a $1,100 loan made in 2005. I realize that you're not a mind reader and so it may not be immediately obvious what information I need, and I do thank you for your patience. The parents are claiming that they lent you and your ex-spouse money. Ideally, I would like to know:

1. How much they claim was loaned.
2. When they claim the money was loaned.
3. When they claim the amount allegedly loaned was due to be repaid, including whether it was to be repaid in installments.
4. What portion of the alleged loan, if any, has already been repaid.
5. Whether there were any other terms of repayment, such as interest due on the amount loaned.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

1. His parents are claiming $25, 000 total

2. They seem to be claiming drom 2005 to present even though my ex and I have been separated for 3 years already. I'm assuming it includes all monies given to my ex up to our separation

3. There was none

4. I don't know how has been paid to his parents

5. There were no terms set and no promissory note

Interesting. Well, I should start by saying that because the nuances of every situation are different, this information should not be construed as complete or advice without consulting in person with legal counsel. That said, I can see why your attorney might feel a bit vulnerable, but I would ordinarily feel pretty strongly that a parent's transfer of money would not be treated as a loan.

This comes up fairly often in contentious divorces, and 90% of the time, the real situation is that the parents are upset at their child's spouse and simply want their money back like they would want their money back for tickets to a lousy show. Gifts are irrevocable, but a loan does not necessarily have to be memorialized with a promissory note, so the question for a court is whether the transfer of money was a gift or a loan. To answer that question, the court will oftentimes look to the terms of the alleged loan and the behavior of the parties. For example, was there a pay-back date? Was there interest? Were there regular installment payments? Was the loan a one-time occurrence? If there is no evidence of an expectation to be repaid and no prior evidence of an intent to enforce the loan, a court (and anyone with common sense) is typically going to find that the money was a gift.

Where one spouse is handling the financial transactions, the argument is usually even tougher for the parents simply because the money has to be traced through the child to the spouse. I can understand your attorney not wanting to declare victory because you can never be sure how evidence would be interpreted by a court and you don't want to set expectations too high for your client (it's better to risk expectations being exceeded by being wrong than risk disappointment by being wrong). And as I mentioned, the nuances of every case are different so your attorney is really the only one in a reliable position to estimate the outcome or to advise you through this process. But all that said, I would generally not like the odds of the parents seeking reimbursement.

Let me know if further clarification is needed. Thanks.
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