It’s a situation that, at least on the surface, seems ripe for a parody of the Pop Princess’s song lyrics: “Oops, he did it again,” “Gimme More”…
Media reports revealed that just days before their eldest son reached the age of majority, Britney Spears’s ex-husband, Kevin Federline, is again considering going to court to ask her for more child support.
Is this all just “Toxic”, or does Federline have valid reasons for a child support modification?
Federline, who was married to Spears from 2004-2007, has full physical custody of their two sons, Sean Preston (who recently turned 18) and Jayden James (16). He receives nearly $40,000 per month in child support and is reportedly asking for an additional $20,000 monthly.
In a statement to Entertainment Tonight, Federline’s attorney, Mark Vincent Kaplan, said the current child support agreement between Federline and Spears “did not allocate how much money was allotted for either child.” Kaplan says his client “is going to need to have the amount re-calculated because instead of having Jayden for 50 percent of the time, he has Jayden 100 percent of the time.”
Kaplan also said they hope to work out an agreement with Spears through her attorneys, but he did not rule out going to court.
The former couple’s original child support arrangement was calculated during their split in 2007 (when her controversial conservatorship under her father, James P. Spears, began).
Under the terms of their original agreement, Federline and Spears shared custody 50/50, and Spears paid Federline $20,000/month in child support. However, Federline soon had full care and custody of the boys.
By 2018, Britney’s career began heating up again, with a new worldwide tour and successful Las Vegas residency. At that time, Federline, who claimed he made less than 1% of Spears’ reported $34 million per year, asked for a monthly child support increase of $20,000. Sources close to Spears said that the relationship between exes, which had been cordial, became increasingly strained. In the end, Spears agreed to pay close to $40,000/month.
Now—five years later, as their eldest ages out of child support, and just as Federline and wife Victoria Prince (m. 2013), have moved to Hawaii with the boys (plus two daughters they share)—Federline is asking for another $20,000 increase.
Prince, a teacher and former college volleyball star, has accepted a position in the sports department at a university in Hawaii. Spears, who has been largely estranged from her sons for the last 1-2 years, consented to the move last spring.
Some Spears fans have voiced concern that Federline is making a “cash grab” and trying to take advantage of a loophole to get more money out of Spears: in Hawaii, child support can extend through age 23 as long as the child is enrolled in an accredited university, college, or trade/ vocational school.
However, a recently revised (2016) Hawaiian child support statute, 576B-611 (d), states: In a proceeding to modify a child support order, the law of the state that is determined to have issued the initial controlling order governs the duration of the obligation of support. The obligor’s fulfillment of the duty of support established by that order shall preclude imposition of a further obligation of support by a tribunal of this State.
The Spears-Federline child support orders were made in California, meaning California law should govern the agreement and any modifications.
Federline and Spears have a complex situation with several unusual factors. However, it is common to renegotiate child support agreements, and Federline’s request raises several common questions.
What does California say about support modifications with issues similar to the Federline-Spears case?
First, by law, in California, both parents are responsible for the financial support of their children. They can either agree on how to share that financial responsibility or ask for a court order. As always, the court’s top priority is to look after the child’s best interests.
The co-parents’ respective incomes are a significant factor in determining how much child support is owed and received and by whom. The custody/visitation arrangement is also critical to establish how much time and caregiving responsibility each parent has with the child.
Regarding how long support lasts, CA.gov explains, “The duty to pay support typically ends when a child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever is later. If they’re still in high school full-time and cannot support themselves, the duty ends when they graduate or turn 19, whichever happens first.”
Either parent can request an increase or decrease modification after each three-year period. When a modification request is filed, the judge looks at many factors, including who primarily cares for the child. Is there sufficient evidence that a change is necessary? Is there reason to believe one party is profiting from the current support arrangement at the expense of the other?
There are also provisions for requesting a change at any time if there is proof of “a significant change in circumstances.” The court will consider factors such as:
- Change in Employment. One parent loses a job due to circumstances beyond their control, or, in some cases, if income is reduced due to a good faith career change, going back to school, etc.
- Unforeseen Change in Income. A significant inheritance, a big raise, etc.
- Altered Custody or Visitation Arrangements. A significant shift in the balance of care.
- Major Change to the Cost of Living. Living expenses, or childrearing expenses, are a broad category that can include factors like a big rent hike, unexpected medical bills, inflation/deflation, or unexpected medical bills. It’s also possible that as your children get older, expenses related to childrearing also increase—for example, education, activities (sports, music, arts, hobbies, etc.), health care, support services such as counseling, etc.
- New Disability or Illness. Prevents a parent from working or performing childcare responsibilities.
- Change in Family Size. One parent has a child with a new spouse or adopts.
- Incarceration or Military Service. A forced relocation takes a parent away from their job or custody obligations.
Not every child support conflict is a highly publicized celebrity case, but every case is unique. If you’re considering a motion to modify your child support arrangement, the family law experts at SFLG can help you understand your rights and navigate the specific facts of your case.
By Debra Schoenberg