"Cameronomics" - Child Support - Custody Issues in California v. Brown
On day 19 of the third trial of Cameron Brown, a couple of witnesses testified to the state of Brown's finances (which I merrily dub "Cameronomics") that indicated he was broke. Brown was never particularly good with money before or after the child support award was part of his financial obligations. I have extensive experience with the way in which child support is calculated, and I appreciate how a father who has very little time with his child (by choice or court order) could resent having to pay almost half his net income in child support.
The best solution is to obtain joint custody (or "shared parenting") where both parents share similar blocks of time with the child(ren) and they commute back and forth between houses. This would, of course, require the parents to have a mature relationship, live in the same school district (or within a manageable distance), and decide who pays health insurance, who gets the tax exemption, etc.
In the case of Brown and Key, the child support was calculated based on the usual factors: income of each parent, time spent with the child, and arrears when the child support award was finalized. Brown owed back child support, a percentage of which was added to his monthly payment. Brown's child support was a substantial amount, and I agree it was debilitating. But, we don't make the rules. It wasn't Sarah's decision, and it's not based on how much of that money is spent on the child.
Mr. Laub's cross examination of the financial expert witnesses attempted to demonstrate that Sarah was getting too much money, that she couldn't have needed it, that she didn't account for what she spent on Lauren, and other accusations that she was immoral somehow in taking this money.
This is a preposterous and irrelevant issue. Whether or not Sarah spent the child support she received from Brown exclusively on Lauren's needs (and demonstrated this with a spreadsheet every week) or on mink furs is moot. The idea behind child support is to provide the child with a lifestyle he/she would have enjoyed had the parents lived together. Unless Brown could show that Lauren was neglected, malnourished, poorly dressed, or smelled like a meth lab, he had no choice but to pay what the court ordered. That's just the way it works. I'm not saying it's fair, but that's the law.
As a single mother who has received a wide range of child support (from Zero to $600/month, depending on the income or deadbeat level of the father), there are innumerable issues that a non-custodial parent doesn't face. A non-custodial parent with no other children (or step-children) buys a lot of freedom with that child support. He/she generally has visitation for 4 to 10 days a month. That leaves over 20 days of freedom from the demands of full-time parenting. The non-custodial parent misses less work because of a sick child, avoids babysitting costs, medical issues, transportation to extracurricular activities, hosting the child's friends, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, nightmares at the shoe store, the list goes on and on.
Brown wanted more time with Lauren, yet he failed to present at any time (from all accounts) a shared parenting agreement where he spelled out how he was going to accommodate her lifestyle. It was unrealistic to keep Lauren 50% of the time from the distance he and Patty lived from Sarah. It was even less likely (testified to in the link above) that the court would grant the Browns full custody unless Sarah had "turned into a monster."
I gave that rationale to Ted Kaldis many years ago, and he insisted that I was out to lunch. This recent testimony vindicates me (not that I needed it), and shows that either Patty Brown was woefully ignorant about how custody matters were decided (and her lame attempt to accuse Sarah of child abuse was only the first of many attempts she made to create a case), or she was bluffing.
Yes, Brown wanted a reduction in child support. He tried to obtain this in many ways: working less, declaring less income, and asking for more custody. He failed in those attempts. However, it was never shown that he wanted full custody. I believe that was Patty's idea, and I would not be surprised if she was drilling this idea into Brown's feeble mind for months. Maybe....just maybe....Brown killed two birds with one stone when he went to Inspiration Point that day: eliminate the child support obligation and his obsessed wife's warped notion that they take that child from her mother and raise her as their own.
It's an ugly thought, but I can't help entertaining it.