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Rich and Famous Divorce: They’re just like us.

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While TMZ and E! News give us all the juicy drama about celeb divorce, what they forget to discuss is how celebrity divorces compare to the rest of us. Here are some common divorce and separation issues that are currently creative media buzz.

Kevin Federline Demands $60k per month in Child Support from Britney Spears.  According to Court records and News outlets, Britney Spears has been consistently paying Kevin Federline $20k per month in child support for the past several years. Britney claims that on top of this monthly support amount, she pays for all of the children’s expenses including school tuition, extracurricular activities, and clothing which total approximately $35,000 a month. Kevin is requesting that support be increased to $60k per month based on the fact that the “Womanizer” signer earned around $56 Million in 2017. Britney’s team has offered to increase support to $30k a month in an attempt to resolve this issue.

So how do courts determine what the appropriate amount of child support should be?

When it comes to child support in California, there is a guideline calculation designated by California Family Code that takes into consideration both parties’ gross income from all sources and certain available deductions. (Fam. Code §§ 4050 – 4076). This formula is presumed to be correct under most circumstances. (Fam. Code §§ 4053 (k), 4057(a)). However, there are exceptions which allow Courts to deviate either upwards or downwards from the guideline calculation. (Fam. Code § 4057(b)). One of those exceptions is the “Extraordinarily high earner” exception. (Fam. Code § 4057(b)(3)).

The Family Code recognizes that children’s needs can be limited and while there is no cap in California, the Courts are given discretion to deviate from the presumptively correct child support calculations, in very, very, limited situations.  A parent who is seeking to have this “high earner” exception apply to them must demonstrate to the Court that the guideline formula would be unjust or inappropriate and that a lower support figure is more consistent with the intentions of Family Code § 4052.

One California case, S.P. v. F.G. 4 Cal. App. 5th931 (2016), concluded that the guideline figure of $40,882 per month to be paid by Father, would be unjust and inappropriate and would exceed the needs of the child. (Id. at 928 – 929).The Court based its holding on the finding that Mother’s proposed needs were unreasonable. Mother has claimed $34k in housing costs, $8k in entertainment gifts and vacation costs, almost $4k per month in clothing expenses, and $1,200 per month for the children’s cosmetology, massages and spa treatments. (Id.at 927 – 929).

Therefore, the Court reduced the payment of child support to $14,840 per month. (Id. 927).

Now this is only one of many examples, and many times Courts decline to apply this exception. The general policies set forth by the state and the California Family Code force the Court to consider, placing the interests of child as the top priority, holding each parent accountable for the obligation to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and stations in life, and that children should share in the standard of living of both parents and child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children. Family Code § 4053.

We will have to wait and see whether the Court believes Kevin’s request that Britney pay $60k in monthly child support is reasonable and consistent with the principals of the California Family Code.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt battle of whether it is detrimental for the children to be in Jolie’s case due to alienation concerns. Being the uber stars they are, Brad and Angelina’s intimate family dynamics are now available to everyone to pick a part (the good and the bad part about divorce filings being public record in the State of California). The most recent orders obtained by CNN holds that it would be harmful for the children to not have a relationship with their father and that “if the children remain closed down to their father and depending on the circumstances surrounding this condition, it may result in a reduction of time they spend with [Jolie] and may result in the Court ordering primary physical custody to [Pitt]. This is a very serious finding by the Court and has many people asking, what could possible invoke a Judge to make this type of finding. Well, it is possible that the Court is having serious concerns about child alienation.

While alienation can come in many forms, it generally involves one parent painting a negative picture of the other parent through blame, false accusations, or lies that are shared with the children. This can also occur when one parent significantly withholds the child from the other parent.

The Courts take alienation very seriously and have use their broad discretion when it comes to custody and visitation to actually change custody from the alienating parent to the alienated parent citing the best interest of the children (Family Code § 3011). It does not matter whether you have lots of money, high power attorney’s or the media in your corner, if any parent is engaging in alienation of their minor children, they are at risk of having their custodial time severely reduced.

Parental Alienation is a topic that will be further developed within this blog as it is more common than people think and can have very negative effects on children.

The attorneys at Hepner & Pagan, LLP have extensive experience in the areas of child support and child custody/visitation. If you have questions regarding child support or custody and visitation, please do not hesitate to contact Hepner & Pagan, LLP today for a free 20-minute consultation.

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