In my last blog post, I discussed paternity testing, the importance of requesting a paternity test, if there is any question as to who the biological father of the child is, and the implications of not having a paternity test done within the two-year statute of limitations. One of the specific implications I did not discuss in that blog post is the fact that once it is established that you have a child you may have to…dun, dun, duuuun…pay child support!
When you share a child with someone, are no longer residing with that individual, and do not have residential responsibility of your child you will most likely have to pay child support. I say most likely, because if you share the residential responsibility of your child there may be an offset in the amount of child support, meaning neither party would be obligated to pay child support. This typically happens when parties who share residential responsibility earn similar incomes. In any event, if either parent commences a court action for divorce or residential responsibility then the Court is obligated to enter a child support order. Likewise, if one parent applies for services through the North Dakota Department of Human Service Child Support Division, applies for a public assistance program, or there is a request from another State’s child support program, a child support order will be entered.
At least once every couple of weeks, I take a cold call at our Fargo, ND office from an individual who tells me that they either don’t want to pay child support or that they have an agreement with the other party to waive child support. I hate to burst their bubble, but I have to tell them that waiving child support is just not possible in North Dakota and that they will likely have to pay child support if they do not have the residential responsibility of the child. The North Dakota Supreme Court has consistently held that “[a] parent has a duty to support [their] children to the best of [their] abilities, not simply to [their] inclinations. Logan v. Bush, 2000 ND 203, ¶ 15, 621 N.W.2d 314, 317-18. It’s just simply not up to the parents, it’s up to this complex mathematical calculation. I say it’s complex because I truly despise math, but in any event, the amount of child support is based solely upon this calculation, not by how much the receiving parent needs or wants in child support.
Being underemployed or unemployed just won’t help you, because a child support obligation will be calculated for each obligor, regardless of their employment status. If the obligor is underemployed or unemployed, then their child support obligation will be based upon an imputed income. Generally speaking, an imputed income is an estimate of how much that individual should or could make if they were fully employed. Child support for those that are employed is determined using their net income. Net income is considered the person’s “total gross annual income less the exclusions” allowed under North Dakota Administrative Code Section 75-02-04.1-01(6). Berge v. Berge, 2006 ND 46, ¶ 12, 710 N.W.2d 417, 420. To most peoples dismay, gross income includes everything you earn except the following: benefits received from public assistance programs, employee benefits over which the employee does not have significant influence or control, child support payments, atypical overtime wages, non-recurring bonuses, overseas housing-related allowances, and non-recurring capital gains. Just like Uncle Sam, child support wants to know about every single dollar you earn.
I can imagine it is frustrating to see a portion of your hard-earned income being given to an individual you may or may not get along with, especially if you suspect that your child support payment is not going towards the support of your child. However, I would urge everyone who has a child support obligation to treat it like another bill and budget for it, because if you don’t pay it your life can get much worse.
North Dakota has several tools available to collect on unpaid child support. Typically, child support can be collected through an income withholding order, which means that your child support obligation will be automatically deducted from your paycheck. However, if you don’t pay your child support obligation the State could take half of any lump sum payment over $1,000 that you receive from your employer, put your name on the State’s lien registry, suspend your driver’s license, intercept your Federal or State tax return, hold you in contempt of court, which may include jail time, or even take your lottery winnings!
If for whatever reason, you are not paying child support, you are not alone. The following celebrities have had trouble paying their child support over the years.
- Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston – Bristol and Levi have a seven-year-old son together, named Tripp. In 2010, Levi was court-ordered to pay Bristol $1,750 a month in child support, because his income was, admittedly, in excess of $100,000. Levi’s income was due primarily to entertainment events and a near-nude photoshoot he did for Playgirl magazine. He allegedly posed semi-nude with a hockey stick. According to Bristol, Levi spent all of his earnings on guns, boats, and four-wheelers, causing him to be over $82,000 behind in child support. Well, it appears Levi’s Playgirl career didn’t exactly pan out, because he’s now living in his mother’s garage with his new wife, Sunny, and their two children making a living as an electrician. He’s recently requested that his child support obligation be reduced, due to his decrease in income. It’s unclear how this will end up because they are still in the midst of a court battle.
- Michelle Rodman and Dennis Rodman – Michelle and Dennis share a daughter and a son. While they tried for years to work out their differences, the two split for good in 2012. Dennis was ordered to pay Michelle $50,000 per month in child support for his children. Dennis’ child support amount is based on the fact that he earns an estimated $30 million dollars per year. Now, Dennis has a bit of a track record for failing to pay child support. In December of 2012, Michelle argued that Dennis was $850,000 behind in child support payments. The parties mutually agreed that Dennis was $500,000 behind. The Court found Dennis in contempt and ordered he pay Michelle $500,000 in back child support. Even before this, at the beginning of 2012, Dennis was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service, because he had failed to make child support payments in 2009 and 2010. I’m sure this is not the last time Dennis will find himself behind on his child support payments.
- Evander Holyfield – Notice Evander’s name is all alone…that’s because Evander has twelve (that is not a typo) children with six different women (neither is that). It must be hard for him to keep track of his child support payment because Evander has routinely had significant trouble paying his child support for his children. He has had so much trouble that the Georgia Department of Human Services even threatened to suspend his driver’s license approximately three years ago. Despite making a whopping $250 million dollars, during his boxing career, Evander reportedly owes just under $550,000 in back child support.
- Linda Evangelista and Francois-Henri Pinault – After a brief four-month relationship, Supermodel Linda Evangelista found out she was pregnant with Francois’ child. Francois, who is currently married to Salma Hayek, reportedly broke up with her as soon as he found out she was pregnant and demanded she has an abortion. Bad idea, Francois! Linda went after Francois for child support and requested a whopping $46,000 per month, arguing that Augie should have the same style of living as Francois’ daughter with Salma. Linda’s requested child support amount included round the clock nannies for Augie and armed bodyguards. Unfortunately, the couple settled for an undisclosed amount just prior to trial. While it is unclear if Francois is behind on child support, Linda continues to claim that Francois is a deadbeat dad.
- Terrell Owens – It appears that T.O. goes through NFL teams about as quickly as he goes through women. He has four children with four different women, all of whom he owes a child support payment. Allegedly, in 2012, T.O. was paying $44,600 each month in child support, but that number climbs to about $125,000 per month with the mortgage payments he’s required to pay. As with most things, T.O. didn’t follow through and was held in contempt of court for failing to make child support payments. Let’s hope he enjoyed completing his community service hours at the Goodwill in Los Angeles.
- Flavor Flav – This list of celebrity deadbeat dads wouldn’t be complete without including the infamous Flavor Flav, who has seven children with three different women. It is unclear how much back child support Flavor Flav presently owes; however, he has been in trouble before. In 2012, Flavor Flav owed more than $111,000 to one of the mothers of his children. He avoided a 180-day jail sentence when he was able to come up with a $25,000 payment. Only time will tell if he can get his child support payments under control.
The whole purpose of child support is to enhance the well-being of your child and to reduce the demand for public assistance; however, it is not meant to leave either party destitute and struggling to get by. If you feel that the child support order in your case needs to be reviewed please contact us. There are two of us at SW&L in Fargo who handle family law cases, including child support issues. If you have a family law issue that you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to call our Family Law Team at 701-297-2890.