Children really are expensive: Settling child support cases when incomes are substantial

Mary Zambreno Iowa Family Law Dickinson Law Firm Des Moines Iowa

Posted on 05/10/2012 at 02:25 PM by Mary Zambreno

What could you do with $46,000 a month? That's how much Linda Evangelista was seeking in a contentious Manhattan child support action against her billionaire ex-boyfriend Francois-Henri Pinault, the CEO to the fashion conglomerate that owns high-end brands Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.  The parties have a 5-year-old child, Augustin James, and among his expenses, according to his supermodel mother, are round-the-clock nannies and retired police detectives for bodyguards. The public initially scoffed at the thought of spending $46,000 per month on a child.  Yet others have noted that the cost-of-living in New York, particularly when the minor involved is a child of two famous and vastly wealthy celebrities, justifies the sum sought by Evangelista. In fact, if Evangelista and Pinault were living in the state of Iowa, the court would most certainly have looked at the child's actual expenses in combination with the guidelines established by the Iowa Supreme Court in July 2009.  These child support guidelines provide specific guidance for parents based upon the combined incomes of both parents.  However, for celebrity parents like Evangelista and Pinault who have extraordinary wealth and whose monthly incomes exceed $20,000 a month, an Iowa court may exercise judicial discretion if the guideline's award would be unjustified or inappropriate.  The court will ordinarily not order a support award less than what the guidelines call for, but it may award child support above the guideline amount if the circumstances called for such a ruling and if adherence to the guidelines would have an unjust or inappropriate result.  As the Court in the case In Re Marriage of Campbell, 451 N.W.2d 192, 194 (Iowa App. 1989) noted:  'the support award is not limited to the actual current needs of the child but may reflect the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had there not been a dissolution.' Therefore, if the standard of living to which Augie would have been accustomed to is round-the-clock nannies and bodyguards, then so be it. Attorneys and the court can also be creative when structuring support for children.  For example, in Mason v. Hall, 482 N.W.2d 919 (Iowa 1992), the father's income as a professional baseball player went from $18,000 per year to $280,000 three years later – and soared to $800,000 six years after the original decree.  The district court found that the child's expenses were $250 per week and that the father had the ability to pay $1000 per week with $750 of that to be retained in a trust for the benefit of the child.  The Iowa Supreme Court agreed with the establishment of the trust, questioning the reliability of the father's future child support payments because of his uncertain earning future. Media mogul Sean (a/k/a 'Diddy' or 'P. Diddy') Combs apparently owns the New York state record for largest child support award, paying $19,000 a month for his son.  In Los Angeles, Russell Simmons was ordered to pay $20,000 per month per child for a total of $40,000 per month to his ex-wife, Kimora Lee Simmons – an amount close to Evangelista's asking price of $46,000 – but the Simmons child support award was for two children, not one. It is unknown what the largest child support award in Iowa is but it is probably nowhere near $46,000 a month for one child.

The material in this blog is not intended, nor should it be construed or relied upon, as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney if specific legal information is needed.

Categories: Mary Zambreno, Family Law


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