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High-Income Child Support Payors

Timothy P. Flynn March 19, 2023

Superstar child support payorFamous actors, influencers, investors, doctors, professional athletes; these are examples of high-income child support payors. What happens when a parent has a high-income; how much is too much to pay for child support?

Superstar Support Payors

Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers’ two-time American League MVP faced a highly-publicized legal battle with his one-time mistress over child support for their two children. Cabrera isn’t the only MLB All-Star with a large salary and a money-hungry ex-mistress.

In 2017, the NY Mets’ Jose Reyes was sued for child support by a former mistress. Reyes’ paramour filed a motion asking the court to increase her child support from $11,500 to $41,000 per month.

The paramour claimed her daughter with Reyes should have a lifestyle similar to that of Reyes’ other three children that he has with his wife. In both cases, the mistresses claimed their financial support was cut-off by the ball players after their respective wives discovered their husbands’ love children.

In Cabrera’s case, his annual salary of just over $28 million, plus endorsement deals worth another $2 million was public knowledge. The annual salary of the child support payor is the foundational fact that ultimately determines the child support obligation.

Cabrera’s former mistress was earning just over $1,000 per week when their older child was born. The relative incomes of both parents are factored into calculating the payor’s child support obligation.

Cabrera’s relationship continued for several years, resulting in another love child. Obviously, the number of children also affects a payor’s child support obligation.

A third key factor takes into account the number of overnights per month the child spends with each parent. In Cabrera’s case, sadly, the number is probably less than a dozen.

The Michigan Child Support Formula and High-Income Payors

Ever since Congress passed the Family Support Act in 1988, Michigan -along with the other 49 states- developed a child support formula to standardize child support obligations across our 83 counties. Prior to adoption of this formula, child support was determined through the exercise of a judge’s personal discretion.

The formula takes into account the relative incomes of the parties; the number of children in the relationship; and the number of overnights the children spend in each parents’ home.

If Cabrera’s paramour lived in Michigan, the future Hall-of-Famer would be looking at upwards of $150,000 per month in child support. Fortunately for professional athletes and other high-income individuals, the Michigan Child Support Formula contemplates extraordinarily high-income payors and provides the court with considerable discretion to reduce the child support obligation.

In Michigan, although the threshold for an “extremely high-income” determination is not fixed, there is a formula used in high-income cases. Support continues to accrue at the rate of 10 percent of all family income above a specific amount, to be apportioned between the parents based upon their respective incomes.

Pursuant to statute, a support payor can raise the issue that application of the high-income formula is unjust or inappropriate. Michigan Courts, however, have not addressed specific cases in this area thus, the law remains unsettled.  

The Child Support 3-Pony Rule

The rationale behind this determination is straight-forward: at a certain point, the amount of the support obligation is sufficient to meet all realistic needs of the child. This is the “3-pony rule”. No matter how wealthy the parents, no child needs three ponies.

The Orange County, Florida family court judge assigned to Cabrera’s case certainly subscribed to the so-called “three-pony rule” when he issued an interim order awarding $12,000 per month in support for the two children. The order also requires Cabrera to continue to pay the majority of the children’s extracurricular expenses, including annual passes to Sea World, Universal Studios, and Disney.

In Cabrera’s world-view, that support obligation is the equivalent of about three innings of salary and endorsements. Even Miguel’s season-ending bicep injury won’t slow-down his salary for quite some time.

Capping child support awards for parents with multi-million dollar annual incomes is the norm. While most high-value child support agreements are private, those that are public reflect support amounts that are dramatically less than called for under the Michigan child support formula.

Payee Gold Diggers

For her part, Sanchez showed what not to do in family court when requesting exorbitant discretionary funds. She was arrested 50-yards from the Nassau County courthouse after a road-rage incident. She had brass-knuckles in her possession.

Like Cabrera’s child support case, Reyes is also a high-income payor. The judge entered a temporary order leaving Reyes’ child support unchanged. The minor child is on his health insurance. Again, 3-innings of salary.

Cabrera already provides health insurance for his children, along with private school tuition, daycare, and other extracurricular activities.

We Can Help

Our law firm has represented and counseled spouses of professional athletes. We also represent high-income child support payors and payees.

If you have a support case, or questions about your support obligation, call us for a free consultation.