Exceptions to Guideline Child Support: Different Rules for Wealthy People (Like Brad Pitt)


Recent news articles report that Brad Pitt claims he will not pay monthly child support in the amount of $141,380 for the couple's six children. Brad sure sounded angry in this statement and there are probably people who were quick to condemn him as a jerk for refusing to be financially responsible for his children. After all, isn't there a guideline formula that dictates how much a payor of support has to pay based on his or her income? Well, yes, unless you fall into one of the exceptions provided by the California Family Code. Let me explain . . . .

The statewide system of imposing guideline child support was implemented to ensure fairness. In creating "guideline" child support, our government intended to have consistency among child support obligations. The legislature believed that without a guideline formula there would be too much disparity in the way family courts issued child support orders. After all, a carpenter in Los Angeles County should not have a substantially higher or lower child support obligation than a carpenter in Orange County earning the same amount of money.

However, there are certain exceptions that authorize the family court to depart from ordering guideline support. One of these exceptions is where the payor of child support earns an extraordinary amount of income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the children. In these type of cases the child's need is measured by the parent's current station in life, based on public policy that a child is entitled to be supported in a style and condition consistent with the position in society's of its parents. Consequently, the Court is charged with the decision of how much support does the child of a wealthy parent reasonably need.

In a recent appellate court decision, for example, the trial court's decision to order a wealthy father to pay $14,840 a month child support for a 12 year old girl, rather than the guideline amount of $40,882 was upheld on appeal.

Going back to Brad Pitt's case, based on this exception to the guideline formula law, he may not have to pay $141,380 per month in support of his six children. Then again, what are the reasonable needs of six children of two very wealthy parents? My guess is that whatever amount he eventually is ordered to pay, it will be a staggering amount to us mere mortals!