Child Support Case Study: The Baseball Player
What Tony Womack Taught Us About Child Support
Tony Womack was member of the Arizona Diamondback’s 2001 World Series Championship Team. No one has stolen more bases in Diamondback history. In 2010, Womack filed to modify his child support obligation.
At that time, Womack was living primarily off investment accounts funded with deferred compensation from the later years of his baseball career. Womack drew from was a short-term investment account valued at approximately $800,000 for his main support.
The account generated roughly $5,000 per month interest income. Womack argued his income for child support purposes should be $5,000 per month, even if he was withdrawing $40,000 from his short-term accounts per month.
Obviously, the Mother did not agree. She argued that his monthly withdrawals should be considered income for the purpose of calculating child support. The trial court ruled in her favor and Womack appealed.
What Did The Court Say When Womack Appealed?
On appeal, there were two primary issues:
- Whether funds withdrawn from a short-term investment account be treated as income for child support purposes;
- Whether an increase in the percentage share of child support under the guidelines is required to meet the standards for a child support deviation.
As for the first issue, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision. In reaching its decision, the Court was heavily persuaded by Womack’s decision to draw funds from his short-term account to pay for living expenses so that he would not have to touch his long-term assets.
Since Womack was regularly pulling out funds from his account to pay regular living expenses, the Court said it was appropriate to classify the withdrawals as income. Also, the Court noted that if the parents were living together, the child’s quality of life would have been much higher than one based upon monthly earnings of $5,000 per month.
The second issue in this case arose because the Child Support Guidelines formula for calculating the total child support obligation tops out with a combined gross monthly income of $20,000/month.
That means that in Womack’s case, the total child support obligation was likely artificially low.
Normally, in this circumstance, a party asks for a deviation from the guidelines. But deviations are normally complicated and expensive. So, to more easily account for the difference the Court used Womack’s actual income, instead of the $20,000 cap, to figure his share of child support.
Resolving The Difference
For example, under the guidelines cap, Womack’s fair share of the total obligation ($2,610) would have been 75 percent or $1,957.50. However, using his actual income of $42,000 per month, the trial court found his proportional share to be ninety percent or $2,348. The question was whether this increase constituted a deviation, which was important because the trial court did not follow the requirements to issue a deviation.
Ultimately, the Court of Appeals found that the increase was not a deviation because the trial court still used the $2,610 total child support obligation under the $20,000 cap to reach its final calculation.
Womack’s case is interesting because it involves complex issues and the lawyers for both sides made creative and persuading arguments. While most cases don’t involve facts similar to Womack’s, the key here is to consider all sources of funds used to pay personal expenses when determining income for child support purposes.