Procedural Posture

Appellant former husband challenged an order from the Superior Court of San Diego County (California), which required appellant to reimburse respondent former wife for educational expenses respondent advanced to the parties’ son for his senior year of college.

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Appellant former husband and respondent former wife’s marital separation agreement provided that appellant would make child support payments and pay for the college education of the children. When appellant stopped making payments, respondent filed a complaint to enforce the agreement. The trial court denied respondent’s claim for child support arrearages, but granted her request for recovery of college expenses. The court affirmed the order denying the arrearages, reversed the order awarding damages for college expenses, and held that the law of third party beneficiary contracts gave a promisee only a remedy of specific performance and, at best, nominal damages involving a donee beneficiary. The court held that the trial court erred in awarding respondent the money voluntarily loaned to her son. The court ruled that the son was a donee beneficiary and had a cause of action against appellant.


The court reversed the trial court order that required appellant former husband to reimburse respondent former wife for their son’s college expenses. The court found that as a promisee to a third party beneficiary contract, respondent former wife was only entitled to the remedy of specific performance.