brenda shapiro

Car Seats Don’t Really Fit in a Maserati: Protecting the Children of ‘Baby Mommas’

When the young girlfriend of a professional athlete, musician, or other celebrity gets pregnant and has a child, she gets stamped with the title of “baby momma” and joins the growing number of new mothers to children of high-profile men in South Florida as well as

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the nation. While these women come from very different social and economic backgrounds, they share a common goal of wanting their children to have a secure financial future and a steady childhood, regardless of the circumstance.

This is almost never the case because the fathers have different goals, usually involving their careers and not children, even if he has a good relationship with the mother and contributes to his child’s care. These high-profile men who are suddenly fathers live life in the fast lane, focused on their careers and endorsement contracts. They buy every boy toy imaginable including cars, jewelry, multiple residences, boats, planes, et al. spending their new wealth freely, and typically don’t want to slow down.

For most of these fathers, marriage to the woman who gave birth to their child is not something they are interested in so they deem it unnecessary, thinking that if they throw money at the situation it won’t have to be their problem for much longer. They hope to avoid a host of legal and financial complications. And there are other fathers who try to completely get out of the situation by claiming they aren’t the father, which forces the mother to file a paternity suit to establish her child’s rights.

To put it into perspective, a high-profile man might have a three-year contract for $5 million, $10 million or more per year. That’s quite a lot of money for anyone to deal with, let alone a young professional athlete, model, or celebrity whose life has suddenly changed overnight. He has been thrust into the media spotlight and is constantly surrounded by people paid to stroke his ego. Managers who promise to manage the financial and investment side of his life relentlessly pursue him and they may or may not have his best interests at heart. There is an immense amount of pressure on these men, from keeping their contracts, figuring out which endorsements are worth their time, to making sure the people he surrounds himself with aren’t trying to take advantage of his new fortune.

But none of this makes it acceptable to run out on your child because it is an inconvenience. With a new small fortune, the last thing these men think about is what will happen to their money after their peak earning years come to an end. They can see their wealth drastically deteriorate if they buy a G5 jet and have a pilot on payroll once they get their first paycheck. Only a handful of pros like Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal or A-list stars like Brad Pitt have been able to harness their skills and celebrity status to find success in the business world. Yes. Angelina Jolie would be considered a baby momma. But the difference here is that Angelina Jolie has the means to support herself, with or without Brad. The challenge traditional baby mommas face is that they cannot support their child on their own, and if the father has a disposable income, they demand that he contribute to raising the child, usually through monetary compensation.

Another issue baby mommas face is that the father has a short-term earning curve. Unless the father is an athlete of the LeBron James variety, chances are once his contract expires he won’t see much more income, and if he spent his money frivolously he will see it disappear faster than his highlights reel on ESPN. The careers of the high-profile athletes and musicians usually have an expiration date. Try to remember any player on the Heat in 2004 that is not Dwayne Wade, Shaq, or Alonzo Mourning. What ever happened to the rest of those guys? Or what about all the bands that were hot for one year and then hit their sophomore slump, rendering them irrelevant. This inconsistency poses a financial challenge for baby mommas and their children.

Regardless, the new mother is entitled to child support, based on guidelines established by state statute. However, those guidelines are designed to meet the immediate needs of the child – not the mother. Unless the child requires special medical or developmental care, the monthly cost of providing food, shelter, clothing, and day care is going to be relatively low in relation to the father’s high income.

Paying child support usually poses no immediate problem for the high-earning father, that is until the contract comes to an end. Then the financial picture will probably change dramatically. There may be no money left for the child, since the flow of funds has been drastically reduced and the many assets are now liabilities without cash flow to pay the debt. The proverbial glass horse drawn carriage turns into a pumpkin.

In light of this all-too-familiar situation, statutes should be revised to address “Good Fortune” child support. This recognizes the long accepted principle that children who are dependent on their parents should share in their parents’ wealth. It creates the opportunity to order irrevocable trust funds established for each child. The trust funds would be funded from the difference between reasonable child support and the statutory guidelines based upon the parents’ net monthly income. This allows the trust to be built with money the father currently has, as opposed to waiting and risking that he might not have any money years down the road. If the father is earning millions a year he will barely notice the contributions needed to fund a college education in the future. Placing the fund under the management of a

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disinterested third party, preferably a bank trust department selected by the parties or appointed by the court, can help assure that the money will be available as the child grows into adulthood.

Putting a court-ordered trust fund in place today provides the child of a baby momma with long-term financial security. Long after the father’s high income disappears, those funds will be available to give his son or daughter a better opportunity in life. It is the responsible thing to do, regardless of how involved he wants to be in the child’s life, he is accountable for providing for his child. He won’t have to swap his Maserati for a reliable SUV, but he will still be doing the responsible thing for his child- providing for their future.

To learn more about Brenda Shapiro, visit her Haute Lawyer profile and website.