Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Nebraska Court of Appeals (J. Carlson) reverses Douglas County District Court and orders Famous Dave's restraunteur William Theisen's child support reduced from $15000 to $700/monthTheisen v. Theisen, 14 Neb. App. 441 January 31, 2006. No. A-05-103. The father, heir to the Godfather's founder Willy Theisen's fortune and himself an owner of several Famous Dave's restaurants initially paid child support for five children to his wife through a family trust, in the amount of $15000 per month. The $15k/month was through the spouse's separation agreement, consent decree, which did not specify reduced amounts as the chidren reached majority. The trust ended and the father sought modification. Wife wanted to keep the fifteen dimes coming every month even though by that time only one child was still under 19. The trust no longer paid the wife a straight $15k/month, but instead paid directly significant expenses for their children. The District Court denied the father's motion to modify the child support. The court of appeals reverses.
Child support orders are always subject to review and modification. Reinsch v. Reinsch, 259 Neb. 564, 611 N.W.2d 86 (2000)...it is clear that the parties included the provision allowing either party to modify upon certain conditions, not because the trust's payments were for a certain time, but because the length of the trust's payments was uncertain or speculative. The parties' agreement regarding a subsequent modification is an acknowledgement by both parties that if the trust stopped making the payments, or if the payments continued but were inadequate, a material change of circumstances had occurred...At the modification hearing, William testified that he did not have a source of income when he signed the parties' settlement agreement, but, rather, he was supporting himself by liquidating his $1 million share of the marital assets. For these reasons, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that a material change in circumstances had not occurred. We go on to modify William's child support obligation accordingly, giving due deference to the best interests of the children.
At the time of the modification hearing the father was earning over $500k/year while at the time of the divorce he made nothing (and its tough trying to live off his liquidated share of marital property following the divorce worth a paltry $1million). The court of appeals sets child support based on maxiumum child support guideline income permonth of $10k, as when family income exceeds this, the guidelines allow a discretionary increase. But in this case the court of appeals deviates and orders only $700/month child support, the amount of money the mother states she spends out of pocket every month. Also the trust continued to pay childrens significant expenses:
Given the evidence that the trust is paying all of the major expenses of the minor children, we conclude that it is both equitable and in the children's best interests to deviate from the child support guidelines in setting William's child support obligation. The record clearly shows that ordering William to pay according to his income would be both unjust and inappropriate, given the evidence that the trust pays all of the children's expenses except some minor expenses still being incurred by Karen. Therefore, on this record we set William's child support obligation using the evidence of Karen's expenses for the children. Given that Karen incurred approximately $700 in monthly expenses for the children from December 2003 through December 2004, we order William to pay Karen child support of $700 per month. William should pay this amount until Cody reaches the age of majority under Nebraska law, becomes emancipated, becomes self-supporting, marries, or dies, or until further order of the court.

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