More than a third of all the articles we’ve written over the past 15 months have addressed child support in one form or another because -- much like kids -- it’s an emotional, expensive, and sticky issue.
The state of Washington has a simple table for estimating child support obligations, but A) the table only goes up to a combined income of $144k in annual income and B) It doesn't factor in education-related costs, work-related daycare, uninsured medical expenses, and extra-curricular activities.
We’ve rounded up a few family law cases that provide insight into where this table falls short.
Education: Paul McSmartly’s daughter
With a $50 million lump-sum payment and $70k in annual child support, Heather Mills’ divorce from the former Beatles bassist is considered to be one of the largest family law settlements in history.
As their attorneys worked toward an agreement, Paul and Heather got stuck on the issue of their daughter’s education. McCartney’s children from his previous marriage had gone to public schools and he believed private institutions “mess children up.”
Mills wouldn’t back down from her demands and he eventually agreed to pay for little Beatrice to attend a 47-acre countryside school that charged $20k per year. She was four years old at the time of the divorce.
For those who don’t have 60 gold albums to their name, educational expenses are usually limited to school uniforms, supplies, and textbooks.
Housing: The legal Hail Mary that failed
One oft-forgotten variable in child support cases involves living costs. Many people assume, “If my ex wasn’t housing my kid, my ex would still pay for housing expenses. Those things won’t factor into child support.” Usually, this is a safe assumption.
However, housing costs can become an issue when one parent is a multi-millionaire and the other is living off the dollar menu. Former NFL player Michael Strahan learned this the hard way when his ex claimed in their child support negotiations that she needed $30k per year for landscaping services.
The court’s decision went viral after a judge cited the ridiculous “Three Pony Rule” to shut down Mrs. Strahan’s lawn care “needs.” The rule came from a famous Kentucky case that stated,
“While to some degree children have the right to share in each parent’s standard of living, child support must be set in amount which is reasonably and rationally related to realistic needs of children; that is, no child, no matter how wealthy the parents, needs to be provided more than three ponies.”
So, if the combined household income exceeds $144k per year, you might be asked to help out with your exes housing expenses. As long as they aren’t of an excessive and equestrian nature.
Clothing: Cruising in infant heels
We’ve covered Tom Cruise’s child support payments once before, but lo and behold, his daughter’s $24k “Grand Victorian Luxury Playhouse” was only just the beginning. By the time Suri Cruise began kindergarten, she owned $150k worth of designer shoes.
One article we found said Holmes even commissioned a pair of Louboutin heels for Tom’s tiny tot. And for those who’ve never heard of the Parisian fashion designer (see: us five minutes ago), his shoes average $800 bucks a pair.
Friends claim that Suri is so obsessed with shoes, she cries when mommy hands her anything that isn’t a pair of heels. By the age of three she had already been injured in a shoe-related slip.
Usually, the wealthier party in a divorce would not be on the hook for such lavish child support. However, the Holmes/Cruise divorce agreement reportedly included a clause that increased Tom’s child support payments if his ex abstained from publicly dating anyone for five years.
Certainly an unorthodox arrangement, but at least they didn’t ditch the Three Pony Rule -- currently Suri has only one.
The sensible approach
Sure, you could probably get most of the information you need from the state’s child support table or our FAQ page, but where’s the fun in that?
The Buckingham, LaGrandeur & Williams team promises swift case resolutions and all the celebrity trivia you could ever want! Give us a call today.