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I am owed money by a 37 year old drug addict. We grew up together and I tried with his father to get him healthy. Over the years, I lent him small sums that added up over time, which we kept track of on a spreadsheet. Things got really bad and I had to cut off communication. Since its become unlikely he will ever be able to repay me, I asked his father to cover the debt; he refused. The father has been financially supporting his son for at least the last 10 years -- $4,000 / mo rent in NYC, food, spending money, etc. Is there a legal argument to force the father to repay the debt if he is supporting his grown son? I don't have a contract but have the spreadsheet and affirmation of the debt from both father and son in email.

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Is there a legal argument to force the father to repay the debt if he is supporting his grown son?

No, if you wanted to be paid back by the father, you should have told the adult son to tell his father to ask you for the money.

Is there a legal argument to force the father to repay the debt if he is supporting his grown son?

No, not unless you can go back in time and have the father co-sign each loan.

Over the years, I lent him small sums that added up over time, which we kept track of on a spreadsheet.

Over how many years? Is some of the debt more than two years old?

If you're going to sue the son in Small Claims court, you only have two years to file your lawsuit and you must exclude all the debt that precedes those two years. In New York city, you can only sue in Small Claims court for up to $10,000. And no, you can't sue the father.

And no, if the son is not clean, he most likely won't pay you back even if there is a Small Claims Court judgment against him.

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  • Where do you get the $5000 limit? The NYC courts website has $10,000. – phoog Jan 13 at 14:21
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    @phoog, You're correct. I was wrong. I had read this outdated pdf form labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/LS602.pdf – Stephan Branczyk Jan 13 at 18:15
  • Regarding your edit, does "only sue in small claims court for up to $10,000" mean that claims of under $10,000 may only be heard by small claims court, or does it mean that only claims of under $10,000 may be heard by small claims court? I would think it's the latter, but I'm not entirely sure. It's a subtle but significant difference. – phoog Jan 13 at 18:40
  • @phoog, From the point of the OP, adding one or two lawyers to the mix is going to inflate the court costs significantly. But frankly, I don't even know if that would be allowed if the amount was less than $10,000. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 13 at 18:53
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Is there a legal argument to force the father to repay the debt if he is supporting his grown son?

I suppose you could make that argument in court, but why? The son is an adult and responsible for his debts, not his father.

Take the debtor to civil court, and if you get a judgement, the court will order assets seized; and it's possible the father would give money to his son to pay the judgement to prevent the son from losing property or being subject to collection agents.

Or at least threaten to take him to court; that may be enough to get paid back. Your court options will depend on the amount you seek (small claims or general civil court) and the statutes of limitations for either one. See New York City Civil Court and New York City Small Claims Court.

Talk to a lawyer; but the feasibility of that may depend on how much you are owed and the potential for recovery vs the legal costs.

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    If the father can afford $4000 a month to support the son, what’s the likelihood that he can also afford to rack up significant amounts in court fees to bury the OP? – Moo Jan 11 at 22:43
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    @Moo how would the father bury the OP in the face of an action in small claims court? – phoog Jan 12 at 17:24
  • @phoog where is small claims court mentioned? – Moo Jan 12 at 18:17
  • @Moo I'm assuming perhaps incorrectly that the amount of the debt is less than $10,000, in which case small claims would be the best venue. If the amount is greater then small claims would not be possible. – phoog Jan 13 at 6:27
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In New York State a creditor with a judgment can get an order to garnish bank accounts. If the father deposits money into a bank account, it can be seizable in theory. I expect the money not to stay in the bank account very long, though and this will be impractical. They will probably switch to cash payments when they catch wind of your activity.

If the father dies and the drug addict inherits him, the drug addict will suddenly have assets that can be seized if you have a judgment. Judgments need to be renewed and there might be some ~$100 legal costs in doing this.

There is a little blood in the stone but it will not be cheap or easy to get at.

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