Model Linda Evangelista, who once touted she doesn't get up for less than $10,000 a day, recently asked a New York court to award her $46,000 a month in child support. Is Evangelista's child support request as unreasonable as the headlines would like us to believe? Not necessarily.
According to a Bloomberg Businessweek publication, the child's father Francois Henri-Pinault's total compensation as CEO of PPR-SA, a luxury brand corporation, for fiscal year 2010 was roughly $5.2 million, excluding any dividends Pinault may have received from company stock or returns on other investments. The annual total of the child support requested is less than 11% of Pinault's annual income from PPR-SA. Not an outrageous amount. While the demise of the "Supermodel" may have put a damper on Evangelista's earnings, she is reported to be worth $8 million, far from an income level where her child is in danger of becoming a public charge.
However, the child support award will not be based on the wealth of one or both parents. New York law states that in high income cases where parental income exceeds $130,000, as in this case, an award of child support should be based on the child's actual needs and the amount required for the child to live an appropriate lifestyle. In Brim v. Combs, the Appellate Division held the Family Court erred in basing a child support award in part on the amount of support the father, Sean "Puffy" Combs, was paying for another child from a different woman, and not on evidence of the child's expenses, resources and needs. The court used the custodial parent's testimony and net worth statement as evidence of the child's actual needs.
The New York Post reports the majority of the $46,000 a month in child support would cover a 24-hour nanny and personal drivers for the child. In this case, a 24-hour nanny for a child whose mother has a career like Evangelista's may be viewed as reasonable by a court. And while the request of personal drivers for a child may appear excessive and unreasonable to most, a judge may think they are necessary for the child's lifestyle.
Pinault is the husband of Oscar-nominated actress, producer and director Salma Hayek. Could Evangelista seek contribution to the child support payment from Pinault's wife? In New York, the courts generally will not look to the spouse of the non-custodial parent for child support unless the parent is hiding assets, makes claims of indebtedness or becomes voluntarily unemployed or underemployed to evade child support payments.
Since child support payments, under New York law, are retroactive to the date of the support application, Pinault will be obligated to pay from the application's filing date. New York law is clear: child support awards should be based on a child's actual needs. Will the Family Court order Pinault to pay $46,000 a month in child support to Evangelista? Probably not. Is Evangelista's child support claim as outrageous as it seems? Not at all.