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Celebrity cases spotlight child support laws

A recent drug rehab stint by Brooke Mueller, Charlie Sheen’s ex-wife, has brought attention to the problematic nature of child support laws. The ex-wife of a major actor received over $50,000 per month in alimony for her twins before his other ex-wife gained custody of the children. Some of the money, her main source of income, was suspected to have been used for drugs. In different states, including New York, celebrity exes have received hundreds of thousands of dollars per month in child support, which raises the question of whether exes of famous individuals take advantage of child support laws.

The celebrity case spotlights the issue of whether individuals receiving child support actually use the monthly payments for their children’s expenses. It also brings up the need for laws to protect children from being used for child support and to ensure that the child support payments go toward children’s basic needs. Celebrity child support cases also show that wealthy individuals are less affected by support agreements that regular individuals, who often pay a great amount of their earnings to their exes each month.

In New York, judges use a child support formula to determine how much a parent has to pay the custodial parent. A judge takes the number of children into account when calculating the percentage of income a person pays. The gross annual income of both parents is also taken into account in cases where the parents make less than $136,000 a year. Custodial and non-custodial parents are expected to pay a certain amount to cover children’s costs. In New York, individuals sometimes have to pay child support until their children reach the age of 21.

In child support cases, parents need to have extensive records of their earnings. Judges use the gross earnings of both parents to determine the percentage of child support for which they are responsible. In divorces involving children, child support is always a part of the settlements. Illness, loss of unemployment and child support paid to other mothers or fathers can affect rulings or warrant child support modification.

Source: DivorceNet, “New York Child Support FAQs,” 2013.

Source: New York City Department of Social Services, “Child Support Calculator,” 2013.

Source: The Root, “Child-Support Laws: A Boon for Gold Diggers?“, Keli Goff, May 22, 2013

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