New York’s Family Court Act states that “the parents of a child under the age of twenty-one years are chargeable with the support of such child and . . . shall be required to pay for child support a fair and reasonable sum as the court may determine.” The statute explains that the amount of support shall be calculated generally based upon a percentage of the combined parental income which leads to the obvious conclusion that a parent with a large income will be chargeable with higher support obligations. As reported lately, Linda Evangelista has petitioned the Manhattan Family Court for child support from Francois-Henri Pinault for their son and undoubtedly, this case will yield a very substantial support order. Evangelista claims she is entitled to $46,000 per month for their son Augustin James. Evangelista (a successful model) and Pinault (CEO of PPR, a French company which owns luxury fashion brands including Gucci) were never married but it does not appear that Pinault is currently disputing paternity.
One reason the case is far more complicated than simply computing the parents’ incomes is that the Family Court Act provides that the court may deviate from the standard calculations if those calculations would yield an “unjust or inappropriate” result. The statute outlines factors for the courts to use in determining whether the presumptive support obligation is “unjust or inappropriate” including:
- The financial resources of the custodial and non-custodial parent, and those of the child;
- The physical and emotional health of the child and his/her special needs and aptitudes;
- A determination that the gross income of one parent is substantially less than the other parent’s gross income;
- Any other factors the court determines are relevant in each case.
Many litigants operate under the errant assumption that child support is always a mathematical calculation and therefore retaining an attorney is a needless expense. The factors listed above give the court tremendous discretion when awarding child support and underscore the importance of having a competent attorney represent a litigant at trial.
Evangelista claims that $46,000 per month is appropriate based on Pinault’s income, net worth (a reported $11.5 billion) and the extraordinary needs of a child born to two high-profile parents. She told the court that the money is necessary in order to provide a nanny to watch her son 24-hours per day and for armed security guards to protect him. The court will consider all of these factors when trial continues in September and the final outcome may depend on how well each attorney frames the financial resources of the parties, the needs of the child and the disparity in the incomes of the parties.