How Much is Enough?

How much is enough ?

Once upon a time there was a very good basketball player whose girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy on February 29, 2000. This basketball player (who plays in the N.B.A.) moved in with his girlfriend, Jamie, in March, 1999 and stayed with her until about six months after his son was born, September, 2000. This professional basketball player, who was 23 years old at the time Jamie gave birth to his child, was earning a salary of approximately $1,400,000.00 annually. After taxes and other miscellaneous deductions, he was taking home approximately $58,000.00 in net income each month. Jamie, who was working part-time at Methodist Hospital earning $9.93 per hour while she was attending a graphic design program at Ivy Tech State College, was bringing home a grand total of $700.00 per month. Jamie was supporting a first child from a previous relationship. She reported that child support expenses for her second child were approximately $1,000.00 per month, $12,000.00 annually.

child on swingThe name of this professional basketball player was Keon Clark. Keon, whose salary at the time of the child support hearing was $1,400,000.00, was about to receive a small raise, and was soon to be earning $4,500,000.00 annually. Accordingly, Keon’s net monthly income after taxes was going to at least triple to $180,000.00 per month, and probably be closer to $250,000.00 per month. Nonetheless, while deciding the case, the trial court based Keon’s monthly child support obligation to his ex-girlfriend on the amount he was presently bringing home, $58,000.00 per month. The trial court awarded Jamie, the ex-girlfriend, $8,500.00 per month in child support, $102,000.00 annually. Jamie testified at the hearing in October, 2002 that she was only spending $1,000.00 per month on the minor child’s support. Since the parties were never married, and Jamie was not entitled to share in any of Keon’s wealth, why was she entitled to receive child support in the amount of $8,500.00 per month?

In Illinois, there is rebuttable presumption that a non-custodial parent, regardless of whether he ever married the custodial parent, is required to pay child support in an amount equal to 20% of his net monthly take-home pay for one child, and 28% of his net monthly take-home pay for two children. This presumption is easier to overcome as the net monthly income of a non-custodial parent increases. The court takes into account several factors, such as the needs of the minor child, the parties’ respective incomes, and the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the mother and father remained together in the same household. In this particular case, a 20% child support order would have required Keon to pay approximately $12,000.00 per month in child support; however, the trial court reduced this obligation to $8,500.00 per month in order to avoid a “windfall” to Keon’s ex-girlfriend.

Naturally, there are valid arguments from both sides. Some people would take the position that the basketball player is wealthy, and his former girlfriend should receive every bit of the 20% statutory amount generally allowed to custodial parents seeking child support from their estranged boyfriends or ex-husbands. The argument is that a court may order child support to be paid in an amount necessary to allow the minor child to enjoy the standard of living he or she would have enjoyed had the parties remained together.

On the other hand, an argument can be made that the needs of a young child are minimal, the ex-boyfriend (or ex-husband) should not be required to pay support which allows his ex-girlfriend (or ex-wife) to use the support for her and her other child or children; the ex-girlfriend is not entitled to share in her ex-boyfriend’s wealth, and that no reasonable three-year old child would ever need $100,000.00 annually for child support.

The facts in this case are true, and the outcome summarized above was affirmed by the Illinois Appellate Court on December 10, 2003. In summary, arguments can be made in support of the ex-girlfriend and arguments can be made in support of the ex-boyfriend. If you do not want to pay a large child support award to an ex-girlfriend or ex-wife, then try not to make too much money.

Contact the Law Offices of Michael P. Doman, Ltd. for your divorce attorney needs.