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I gave my daughter-in-law $400 once a month for 5 months, starting in June of this year. She was to make a tuition payment for my grandson every month, starting in June. I just found out she has made only 2 of the 5 tuition payments. (For other reasons, she and my son are in the middle of a divorce proceeding.)

What are my options to get my money back, or get it paid to the school?

I am new here, if this forum is not the proper place for such a question, where might I go? (Clearly paying an attorney to retrieve $1,200 is not practical.)

Is what she did illegal?

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Was there a contract? If there was a contract, then it is a breach of contract, possibly embezzlement. Was there a verbal contract? Same, but you might have a hard time to prove it. Was there no contract? Nothing you can do.

In the end, she's the mother of your grandson. If you managed to put her into jail for embezzlement, would your grandson say "good job, grandma / grandad"? Not likely. Or if she says "no Christmas presents because I have to pay $1200 to your dad's parents"? It's a learning experience. You've learned something for $1200. Many people paid more for important experiences,

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    There was clear and extensive telephone and email correspondence that the money was tuition. The email correspondence included reference to similar tuition payments last year, schedule of tuition payment due dates, and PayPal invoices/receipts marked with the notation "Pay Tuition". Is that enough to make it a contract rather than a gift? – user3270 Nov 1 '15 at 23:02
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    Does it say something like "user3270 and daughter-in-law hereby agree that user3270 will pay $xxx to daughter-in-law, and that daughter-in-law will pay the exact same amount as tuition fee to the XYZ school"? With a date and signature of each party? – gnasher729 Nov 3 '15 at 1:07
  • Yes and no. The content is very specific as to amount and day of each month and what it will be used for and more. But it was all done by email so there is no actual signature. There is a deposition in which she admitted I save her money for tuition in 2015. She paid the school for 2014-2015 but missed several payments for 2015-2016. – user3270 Nov 3 '15 at 2:38
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Barring evidence to the contrary, agreements between family members are presumed to not be contracts. Legally, the money you have given your daughter-in-law is a gift; once gifted it is her money and she can do with it as she likes.

What are my options to get my money back, or get it paid to the school?

Negotiation with your daughter-in-law; you have no legal options to compel this.

I am new here, if this forum is not the proper place for such a question, where might I go?

It'll do.

Is what she did illegal?

Illegal, no. Unethical, yes.

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    There was clear and extensive telephone and email correspondence that the money was tuition. The email correspondence included reference to similar tuition payments last year, schedule of tuition payment due dates, and PayPal invoices/receipts marked with the notation "Pay Tuition". Is that enough to make it a contract rather than a gift? – user3270 Nov 1 '15 at 23:03
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    Generally not, to overcome the presumption it must be explicitly agreed by both parties that they intend to form a legally binding contract. The only way to know for sure is to take her to court. – Dale M Nov 1 '15 at 23:15
  • Might a DA be interested in this matter. There is a past history of such financial misdeeds, a few resulting in criminal conviction. (These have only come to my attention recently.) – user3270 Nov 1 '15 at 23:19
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    I doubt it. I'm pretty sure there isn't even a breach of contract here much less fraud. – Dale M Nov 1 '15 at 23:45

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