I was reading an article the other day and came across an interesting excerpt from a New York case, Anonymous v. Anonymous (Perelman v. Perelman). This excerpt set forth the distinction between child support that appropriately improves the lifestyle of the custodial parent and a request for disguised spousal support.
In that case, the husband was a billionaire whose annual income was in excess of $40 million. Notwithstanding his wealth, the trial court declared that:
“Child support may not serve primarily to benefit one of the parties rather than to pay the expenses related to raising a child since child support that exceeds the reasonable costs to raise a child in an appropriate lifestyle is disguised alimony. A child support award is not designed to fulfill the mother’s wish list; no mater how vast the father’s income, the award must relate to the actual needs of the child.”
The mother’s proposed child support order sought funds to replicate much of the father’s lifestyle. Since the father had a vacation home in the Hamptons, the mother included the rental cost of a similar home. Since father flew a private jet, she based her estimated travel costs on chartering a private jet. She also included the cost of employing domestic staff comparable to his and furnishing her residence with valuable antiques similar to those in his primary home.
Following a lengthy contested trial, the trial court rejected most of the mother’s proposed “budget.” The court found that the child had “enjoyed a privileged and luxurious standard of living” since birth and was “entitled to continue to do so.” However, it concluded that “every significant aspect” of the child’s needs would be met by an order that was less than 10% of the amount requested by the mother. The trial court concluded by stating that the mother’s budget simply represented an effort to “elevate her own standard of living.”