Arguing over money is nothing new for most families, especially when recent college graduates with massive student loans start looking to their parents for economic assistance in today's tough job market. And things can get tense when parents try to decide how much of that debt they're willing to help out with.
Most of the time, though, that decision isn't decreed in a court of law.
But that's exactly what happened when Dana Soderberg sued her father to force him to fulfill their agreement to pay for her education at Southern Connecticut State University.
Dana didn't take a lawsuit against her own father based on a mere promise, however—she had a legal document to back her up.
When Howard and Deborah Soderberg divorced in 2004, Howard—a property developer—agreed to pay for the education of their three children.
Apparently Dana foresaw that his word wouldn't be enough. In 2005, she convinced her father to sign a written contract that would require him to pay for her college tuition until she turned 25, as well as cover related expenses such as textbooks and car insurance. For her part, she agreed to apply for student loans that her father would cover if she received them.
But Howard stopped paying her tuition just before her senior year, forcing Dana to take out a $20,000 student loan (co-signed by her mother). After graduating as an art major, Dana filed a breach of contract lawsuit against her father with the aid of family attorney Renee C. Berman.
Representing himself in court, Howard contended that his daughter nullified their contract first when she—supposedly—didn't try hard enough to apply for student loans. He even filed a counterclaim alleging that she dropped a few classes and kept the money for herself. In Dana's defense, Berman pointed out that Dana was forced to drop some courses due to the continued tardiness of her father's tuition payments.