Previously I blogged about child support in cases where the combined net income exceeds the upper levels of the Child Support Guidelines. To see that post, click here.
That issue was prominent in the Appellate Division’s decision in the Strahan case which was released on August 26, 2008 as a reported decision (meaning that the case has precedential effect). To see the full text of the case, click here.
This case involved the divorce of Michael Strahan, formerly of the New York Giants and his former wife, Jean. At issue as to child support was support for their three year old twin daughters.
The trial court found that the basic child support amount under the guidelines was $35,984 a year but then found that the children had a supplemental need of $200,000 a year, for a total
of $235,984 a year. Mr. Strahan was ordered to pay 91% of this.
The Appellate Division found several errors in the amount and allocation of child support. First, the trial court took as both accurate and reasonable Jean’s budget, which included $27,000 per year in clothes, $30,000 per year in landscaping, gifts of diamonds for grandparents, a vacation for the nanny, etc. The Appellate Division found that there was duplication between the children’s needs and Jean’s needs, that certain items should have been eliminated and that others were not reasonable. Further, the court held that while Mr. Strahan expressed at trial his desire not "to spoil" the children and to teach them the value of money, the trial court failed to address
plaintiff’s "legitimate right . . . to determine the appropriate lifestyle of [his] child[ren]."
The Appellate Division also found that it was error not to impute income to Jean, who had earned $70,000 per year previously. Interestingly, they commented that "employment opportunities were, in all likelihood, enhanced by her celebrity marriage. There is no question that as a healthy, educated, 41-year-old, (she) is capable of earning her own income."
The Appellate Division also reversed the requirement that Mr. Strahan maintain $7.5 million in disability insurance, in part because he had retired, and in part because it exceeded the life insurance that he was required to maintain. The Court noted that if he became disabled, he would be entitled to file the same change of circumstances motion as any other litigant.
However, Mr. Strahan’s request to have the matter remanded to a new judge was denied. The Appellate Division noted, once again, that an adverse ruling does not equate to bias.