How Extraordinary! and… How Much is Too Much?

How Extraordinary!

Extraordinary circumstances can warrant placement of a child with a non-parent even though a biological parent has a superior right to custody in litigation between a parent and a non-parent.

Extraordinary circumstances may be found when a parent relinquishes his or her parental rights through surrender, abandonment, persistent neglect or unfitness. A court must exercise sound discretion in determining whether or not extraordinary circumstances exist.

Two cases decided in May, 2014 deal with this issue:

In Braun v. Decicco, the court found that the mother’s living conditions, both unstable (moving with the children 6 times in a 9 month period after being evicted from her apartment) and unsanitary (as proven by the testimony of the non-parent based upon first-hand observation) rendered the mother unfit.

In Ray v. Eastman, the court found that the mother had a history of unstable housing which, together with the mother’s not having had a driver’s license for more than two years after an unpaid parking ticket, supported an earlier court determination of extraordinary circumstances that resulted in temporary custody to non-parents.

How Much is Too Much?

How much child support should be paid by a parent earning over $10 million per year?

Is $23,120 per year (the statutory CSSA formula calculation) the appropriate amount of child support? Is $68,000 per year (the payer’s proposed child support amount) appropriate? How about $637,175 per year (the recipient’s proposed child support amount)?

The court in Sykes v. Sykes, decided in May, 2014, held that $102,000 is the appropriate amount of basic child support under the circumstances. In addition the court required the parent earning over $10 million per year to pay 100% of all child support add-ons for medical and educational expenses of the children.

Alas, very few of us are likely to be wrestling with calculations based upon such sizable income figures but we can all learn from the court’s ruling nonetheless:

In Sykes, the recipient parent had been awarded $2.4 million dollars for her interest in the business owned by the payer and thus had substantial income potential from that distribution. Thus the standard of living the children would have enjoyed had the marriage remained intact was not impaired.

Also, payers earning substantially more than the statutory income cap for calculating basic child support need not expect to have child support calculated with no income cap whatsoever. In the Sykes case the court set the cap at $600,000 despite the fact that income was actually more than 15 times that amount.

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