Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What's Old is New -- Athletes and Child Support

While researching what expenses should be considered when calculating child support, I ran across this case:
Jackson v. Proctor

Seems Mr. Jackson and Ms. Proctor were the proud parents of a little girl.   Well, Ms. Proctor was proud.   Dad was trying to cheapskate the child support.    Mom was a full time student.   Dad played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.   At the time of the filing for child support in 1997, Dad was making 18K a month.    The final order  required him to pay $2500 a month in child support*.    He complained that was too much and was unfair.

Let's do the math.   18,000 - 2500 = 15500.   In Maryland (yay, a case in the state where I am licensed) child support is calculated before taxes.   Even taking out taxes, that leaves a lot left over for living expenses -- providing you aren't buying a lot of bling or big houses and cars.   $2500 is a mere 13% of the Dad's monthly income.  

This is what we love to call an "above the guidelines" case.   The Guidelines are the chart of basic child support that the wise legislators in Annapolis decided was necessary to care for a child.   It's a simple chart.   You have income down one side (both parent's combined income since both parents are presumed to contribute to their child's support) and the number of children across the top.   You figure the combined income, then go to the chart and find where the income cross the number of children.   That's the basic child support amount.   In 2010, the legislature finally updated the numbers for the first time in umpteen years.   This case was decided under the "old" guidelines.  

The problem is that the chart only goes up to so much per month.   The old guidelines only went to $10K a month.   The new ones go all the way up to $15K.    If the parents' income is greater than the chart has, the judge has to go "above the guidelines" to determine the correct child support amount.   Now, people much, much, much smarter than me and much, much, much more involved in the issue talk about parabolic curves and extrapolations and the like.   All that gives me a headache.   Basically, a judge has to determine what is the appropriate amount of child support to care for a child in a manner befitting the parent's lifestyle and income.  

Sorry, its a fact of live, but a football player making 18K+ a month is going to have a better lifestyle than someone working at McDonald's.   The child of the football player should have a corresponding better lifestyle -- whether the child lives with the football player or not.   Parents are expects to support and care for their minor children (adult children are a whole other matter -- GET. A. JOB.)  

Dad in this case though, wanted his offspring to live at Mom's lifestyle.    He claimed that Mom didn't live that extravangantly so why should the child?   Yes, Dad actually tried to argue that is was wrong that Mom lived within her means.    Mom responded that she would provide the things a child of a football player should have, if she had the money to do so.   Since Dad was not paying child support to allow her to do so, she could not.  

The Court followed Mom's reasoning.    They further did not take too kindly to Dad trying to stiff his own kid out of kid's activities.   The Court of Appeals (Maryland's highest appellate court) agreed with the trial court.

Look, every parent paying child support believes the other parent is wasting the money on his/herself instead of spending it on the child.   But, a well-paid athlete can afford to provide for his child's reasonable needs without getting too hung up on a little bit going to benefit mom too (like a better house in a safer neighborhood).    If your child is cared for and protected, pay up.    If not, ask for custody yourself.  

But remember, it is for your kid.   No matter how you get along with Mom, don't stiff your kid.  

*This despite evidence his income had tripled since the original filing.  

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