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Child Support - Who is it Really For?

It’s no surprise that divorce cases involving children tend to be more complicated, especially when it comes to well-paid celebrities. When Halle Berry filed for divorce from Olivier Martinez in 2015, the couple began a battle over child support for their nine-year-old son Maceo which was finally settled in August of this year. Yes, you heard that correctly! Their case dragged on for eight years!

At the end of the day, they agreed to share joint legal and physical custody of their child, and Berry has agreed to pay her ex $8,000 a month in child support, as well as an additional 4.3% of any income she makes that’s above $2M. Berry will also be paying for her son’s private school tuition, extracurricular activities, therapist, and health insurance.

The goal of child support is to provide an appropriate amount of financial support to care for the child. This is directly impacted by how much (or how little) each parent earns. In situations, such as Berry, the child is entitled to share in the financial success of the parent. Meaning, the more a parent earns, the more support a child is entitled to. But questions come up like does the child really need such a large amount to be adequately taken care of? The better question is when does support cross the line from being appropriate to being excessive?

Prioritizing the Child’s Best Interests

The details of this child support case present some things that show the focus is on the best interest of the child, and since they reached a settlement, clearly Berry and Martinez agreed to put their son’s best interest first.

First, both parents have equal legal and physical custody, allowing Maceo to spend equal time with both parents. Why is this important? A child needs to have quality time with both mom and dad. The child did not ask to be in a divorced living arrangement. Allowing the child to continue a healthy relationship with both parents is the best option.

Secondly, the parents decide to make therapy for their child a priority. Divorce is a very difficult thing for a child to go through, and counseling can make a big difference in their overall mental health going forward. Counseling can empower children to understand their feelings, deal with stress, communicate effectively, and navigate the fallout of divorce in healthy ways.

Lastly, Berry and Martinez made a point to legalize non-derogatory language about each other around their son. This is a big one! So many couples let negative talk about each other burden their children. It’s not only wrong to do this but it’s very unhealthy for the kids. According to USAToday, the legal document also included a customary behavior rule that both Berry and Martinez have to follow. “Neither Party shall speak in a negative, disrespectful disparaging, or derogatory manner to, or about, the other Party or her/his family and/or significant other, or allow third parties to do same, to Maceo, in the presence of Maceo, or within Maceo’s hearing range, and not in public or on social media,” the document states.

Extortion or Child Support?

Berry took to her Instagram to vent her feelings concerning child support. “It takes great strength eryday to pay it. And BTW it’s wrong and it’s extortion!” she wrote in 2021, according to E! News. “I’ve been paying it for a decade now. I feel if a woman or man is having to pay support that is way more than the reasonable needs to help SUPPORT the child, I think that is wrong!”

Berry’s frustration has some merit. Keep in mind that in addition to the $8,000 per month, on top of that, she also has to pay their son’s private school tuition, extracurricular activities, therapist, and health insurance. Surely, those are a few thousand dollars more per month.

So how much is too much? What is needed to make sure the child is well taken care of and does not have to suffer just because his parents couldn’t make their marriage work? Perhaps that’s why it took so long to come to an agreement in this case. Providing a healthy and happy life for the children is why child support exists in the first place.

Final Thoughts

While some divorces can take a long time to complete, ultimately focusing on the best interests of the child(ren) should take precedence. Child Support is important to ensure children are supported financially. Trying to get out of paying child support or paying the bare minimum can be damaging to children. However, being forced to pay more than is necessary can cause divorced parents to be bitter and conniving. This ultimately hurts the kids in multiple ways, causing unnecessary stress and insecurity.

The goal of New Jersey courts is to focus on the best interests of the child in determinations of custody, parenting time, and child support. If you are reading this and have questions about divorce or child support, don't go it alone. Call me and schedule a free 20-minute call with me to discuss your divorce case.

The contents of this blog entry are provided for informational purposes only. You should consult with an attorney to determine how the law applies to the facts of your particular case. Reading this blog entry does not create an attorney-client relationship with Kelly McGriff.


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