BELL V. CARTWRIGHT
MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT
PUBLISHED: VACATING AND REMANDING
PANEL: LAMBERT PRESIDING; TAYLOR AND GRAVES CONCUR
DATE RENDERED: 1/16/2009
Dad appealed from TC’s order increasing his child support obligation to Mom from $1,225 per month to $4,000 per month. At time of initial child support determination, Dad was employed as professional football player at $800,000 per year. At time of request for modification, Dad was earning $1.3 million dollars per year. At TC level, Mom contended that an increase of child support to $5,000 was justified as she wished to purchase a new home and to take child on two vacations a year, that she needed daycare expense contribution, and that she wanted to send child to private school and sports camps in the future. However, Mom presented no documentary evidence of these costs. Although TC explicitly acknowledged having no evidence, it nonetheless found that Child had “right to share…in his parent’s standard of living.”
CA cited to Downing v. Downing for its holding that “any decision to set child support above the guidelines must be based primarily on the child’s needs, as set out in specific supporting findings.” CA held that TC applied “share the wealth” child support model in direct contravention of CA’s holding in Downing. As Mom’s alleged expenses were speculative and not proven, TC abused its discretion by arbitrarily increasing Dad’s child support obligation based solely on his increased income without supportive evidence of an increase in Child’s reasonable needs.