Today it was announced that NBA Star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and his wife, Vanessa Bryant are divorcing. The couple married in 2001 and have two daughters – Natalia (8 years old) and Gianna (5 years old). Ms. Bryant’s divorce petition, claiming “irreconcilable differences” was filed in Orange County, California and seeks joint legal custody, joint physical custody of the children and spousal support (what is often known as alimony). Currently, there has been no information released regarding child support for the children.
In New York, simply because the parents share joint physical and legal custody of the children DOES NOT mean that child support is not available. In the case of Bast v. Rossoff, the New York Court of Appeals determined that a joint physical and legal custody arrangement does not preclude an order of child support. The Court stated that the “reality of the situation governs” and that the “primary custodial parent” may be entitled to receive child support from the non-custodial (or secondary custodial) parent. Similarly, this holding allows a court to award child support to a custodial parent of a child even if that parent doesn’t have a “custody order” from a court. Merely being the custodial parent entitles a parent to petition the court for child support. Also of note, in Bast v. Rossoff and in many cases since, the courts have rejected a “proportional offset” theory or formula that would reduce the non-custodial parents support obligation by a proportion based on the amount of time that he or she has physical custody of the child.
Of course, petitioning for child support is not always necessary, especially in situations where the parties reach an agreement in their divorce that settles child support. It is exceedingly likely that if and when Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Bryant settle their divorce, the divorce settlement will provide for a sizeable amount of child support payable to Ms. Bryant.