Michael Strahan and his ex-wife Jean Strahan are back in court – this time fighting about child support arrears TMZ is reporting. According to Jean Muggli Strahan, Michael Strahan owes her $321,654 in “basic child support” as well as one-half of the horseback riding bills for their twin daughters. Those horseback riding bills are said to total $450,802 with Michael being liable for 50% (or $225,401).
According to TMZ, Michael Strahan claims that he never agreed to pay towards horseback riding expenses. This is an all too common occurrence with child support “add-ons.” Parties’ obligations to pay toward such “add-on” expenses are frequently couched very general and often ambiguous terms leaving the Courts to determine whether a parent is actually liable for contribution towards these costs. This is especially true for extracurricular activities (such as horseback riding) of the children. Commonly, a stipulation will require that the both parties are liable for a share of the costs only if both parties agreed to enroll the child in such an activity. While this may seem simple enough, numerous issues can arise from such verbiage. What happens when one party seeks consent to enroll the child and the other party refuses to answer? What happens when the second party unreasonable refuses enrollment? What about instances when the child has participated in the activity for many years beforehand and now a parent no longer consents to such participation? The best solution to such situations is crafting a particularly detailed written Stipulation of Settlement that addresses these issues long before they ever occur.
Similar issues arise with other add-on expenses such as summer camp. If an agreement provides that each party is liable for one-half of the summer camp expenses, how do we determine whether that includes sleepaway camp or merely day camp? Are the parties responsible for the costs of a travel camp when a more modestly priced non-travel camp is readily available? Again, specificity and clarity in the underlying stipulation or order is the best way to avoid such issues from ever arising.
While Jean Strahan’s motion papers are not available to the public, it is highly likely that she is also seeking to have Michael pay towards her legal bills under Domestic Relations Law § 238 – Expenses in Enforcement and Modification Proceedings.
A thorough and well-drafted Stipulation of Settlement is undoubtedly the best approach to protecting yourself from such post-judgment litigation. Consult with an experienced and knowledgeable matrimonial attorney before settling your divorce.