In a recent decision a Nassau County Justice refused to award a wife an interim award of child support arguing that child related costs could be covered by the parties other assets and from the interim spousal maintenance awarded.
The facts of the case were unique in that the case involved a couple who "lived a lifestyle most people could hardly fathom". The lifestyle of extreme excess included an 8 bedroom, 9 bath home on 9.56 acres in Old Westbury with additional homes in the Hamptons and on Sea Island, Georgia; a $500,000 NetJets contract plus use of jets for between $2,500- $5,000 per hour; $3,000 per night hotel rooms; $40,000 vacations; memberships to 5 Country Clubs; and $100,000 monthly clothing bills. A pendente lite application by the wife sought, among other things, child support and an interim award of spousal maintenance in the sum of $97,000 per month. The Court ordered the husband to cover expenses for the wife and their 2 children ranging from taxes, insurance and maintenance on their Old Westbury home to the cost of maintaining the couple's other homes plus medical and educational costs. The Court also ordered the husband to also pay $30,000 per month in spousal maintenance arguing that even with this reduced sum of spousal support, the wife's lifestyle would still approximate the one she enjoyed when she was with her husband.
What is most significant about this case is not the incredibly luxurious lifestyle of the parties; the precedent setting sum of the pendente lite award made (almost $2 million per year), or the $850,000 in legal fees incurred by the wife long before discovery is completed, but rather, the fact that the Judge refused to award child support leaving support to be addressed by the couple from their other assets and the $30,000 monthly spousal maintenance award.
Domestic Relations Law (DRL) section 236 B 7(a) provides that in any matrimonial action the court "shall order" either or both parents to pay temporary child support or child support without requiring a showing of immediate or emergency need. The law is mandatory and does not grant the court any discretion. While clearly each spouse in the subject case had sufficient funds to support the children, nevertheless, DRL 236 B 7(a) required the court to order the payment of child support.
Can this decision be used as precedent by other courts where the parents have independent separate assets to support their children and/or where the court believes that a spousal maintenance award is, in addition to other pendente lite relief awarded, sufficient to support the children as well? That remains to be seen, but the door has certainly been opened.