While children have a voice in their parents’ divorce, their “best interests” revolve around custody and visitation matters. They benefit from child support. However, strict, statutory calculations dictate the specific amount of money set aside to provide for their basic needs.
Historically, money for child support goes to the custodial parent to pay for necessities, not the children. However, a recent landmark court ruling blazed a new trail where finances necessary for post-secondary education went directly to the son of divorced parents.
Beth and Mark Weber divorced in 2000. Seven years later, Beth pursued enforcement of part of the settlement agreement requiring both parents to equally share the cost of their children’s education. Michael Weber, their son, entered the legal fray when he successfully filed a petition to intervene, becoming a plaintiff in the suit. However, his mother ended her legal pursuit without a resolution.
In 2016, Michael again filed a petition, this time for special relief regarding his education expenses. His own father countered with the claim that he was not responsible for his son’s tuition costs. The trial court sided with the elder Weber.
Michael then appealed to the Superior Court who ruled that the lower court wrongly dismissed his petition. The Weber’s child had standing as a third-party beneficiary to enforce his parents support agreement to pay for undergraduate and graduate school costs.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Weber could intervene in his parents’ divorce settlement and enforce provisions that directly benefit him. In a unanimous decision, the three-court panel granted Michael Weber the authority to enforce a portion of his divorced parent’s agreement, specifically the requirement that his father to pay his share of the expenses.
Out of all the children impacted by the end of their parents’ marriages, Michael Weber’s voice may have been the loudest