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Legal system encourages child support abuse

Florida residents may be interested to hear about a dispute involving actor Charlie Sheen and his estranged wife, Brooke Mueller. The couple's twins were being raised by Denise Richards, Sheen's first wife, while Mueller received drug rehabilitation treatment. Now, Mueller seeks to remove the children from Richard's care. Sheen's lawyers believe that Mueller is seeking custody because child support from Sheen is her only source of income. Mueller receives $55,000 per month.

Other large child support payments have made recent headlines. Actress Halle Barry is said to pay $240,000 per year to her former partner. A wealthy businessman was ordered to pay $100,000 per month - for a child that was proven not to be related to him. What makes Sheen's case unique is not that she receives more each month than many Americans make in a year, but that it seems likely that money is being spent on drugs, not the children.

These cases show a problem in the American legal system, as judges struggle to ensure that fathers pay to support their children but have no real enforcement mechanism to ensure that mothers do not blow that money on themselves. The system penalizes the poor while giving people an incentive to have children with wealthy partners, which can lead to abuse.

In Florida, child support is based on the combined income of the parents. A family law attorney may be able to review a person's financial situation, and that of the other parent, to help negotiate a fair resolution. That way it may be possible to ensure that children are cared for without resulting in a bonanza to custodial parents or rendering the non-custodial parents unable to meet their financial needs.

Source: The Root, "Child-Support Laws: A Boon for Gold Diggers?", Keli Goff, May 22, 2013