The Rich are Different from Us

Mother [M] and Father [F] were never married, but in 2001, they had a daughter [D] together. M and F never lived together, and D had always lived with M in Pacific Palisades, California – a very wealthy area of Los Angeles.

M is an actress who starred in a Swedish reality TV show. F is a businessman with an estimated net worth of over $400 million. His annual earnings are over $4.8 million.

When D was born, M and F entered into an agreement where F would pay M $9,200 a month in child support plus all of D’s medical, private school, and extracurricular expenses. It was later increased to $10,000 per month.

In 2010, M filed a petition in court to increase her child support award based on state guidelines under Family Code Section 4055, or at minimum $35,000 per month. F argued to the court that $10,000 was adequate.

M claimed in her expense report that she needed $78,000 a month to provide D with a lifestyle like F’s. Among other things according to M, D needed a new house with six or seven bedrooms (rent $35,000 per month, but it did include a full-time gardener and live-in housekeeper), $3100 per month for a Mercedes (remember, D was nine years old at the time), other expenses: “…skin care and ‘beauty,’ hair care, manicures and pedicures, ‘massages/spa,’ pet care and pet supplies, toys, books and magazines, Bel Air Bay Club membership, flowers, and allowance…”

California uses a computer program to determine guideline amounts of child support owed based on the incomes of the parents, the amount of time each parent spends with the child (or children), any special needs of the child, etc. The program is called The Dissomaster. In this case, The Dissomaster determined guideline amount to be about $41,000 per month. The court awarded M $14,800 a month in child support and M appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court.

The court stated, “[I]n the case of wealthy parents, the child’s need is measured by the parents’ current station in life. A child is entitled to be supported in a style and condition consonant with the position in society of its parents. However, under Family Code Section 4053, child support may be awarded in an amount less than guidelines, if the parent paying the support has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the child.

D, at age nine, did not need $41,000 a month to live the same lifestyle as F.

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