Bankrupt Warren Sapp Tries To Lower Child Support Payments
Former football star Warren Sapp is seeking a reduction of the $2,500 per month he shells out in child support for one of his children.
Sapp, who made over $82 million in his career as a defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, declared bankruptcy earlier this year in Florida and is crying poor to try to get his payment reduced. However, there’s a fly in the ointment: Sapp signed a 2001 support agreement with Angela Sanders, the child’s mother, that contained a clause stating that neither party would seek to modify the payments regardless of changes in income.
Sapp was likely trying to stop Sanders from seeking increased payments when he was at the height of his earning powers, but now he’s found himself on the other side of the coin. The judge hasn’t ruled yet on his request, but one point in his favor is that the “no modification” clause is probably meaningless.
“A ‘no modification’ clause, something used often for alimony, is exceedingly rare in child support cases,” says attorney Brent A. Rose of the Orsini & Rose Law Firm. “In fact, in many states, like Florida, the court probably wouldn’t even hold up a ‘no modification’ clause. Once a parent’s income changes, most states allow for modification of child support, and a ‘no modification’ clause would violate that law.”
Children have a right to a certain percentage of non-custodial parental income regardless of what the parents might try to decide on their own. “The reason the law doesn’t allow parents to agree on child support is that, even though the payee may spend the money in any way he or she wants, the money is considered to belong to the children, and parents can’t ‘bargain away’ money that belongs to the children,” Rose explains. “Parents are required to obey the formulas and guidelines set out by each state for calculating child support. When income changes, so must the child support, even if the parents have agreed that the child support shouldn’t change.”
The rules for how much a non-custodial parent should pay are fairly straightforward. “In Florida, child support is determined by the number of children, the combined parents’ income, the cost of daycare or aftercare, the cost of health insurance for the kids, and the amount of overnights each parent spends with the children,” says Rose. “The parties are not permitted to ‘agree’ to amounts different from the amount determined by the formula. I doubt that the judge will uphold Sapp’s agreement, since the agreement would be the equivalent to the parties forcing an agreed-to amount of support.”
When income changes, support payers should file a motion with the court to have the formula recalculated. “In most states, the old child support amount continues at least until the petition to modify child support if filed, so the payer should file to modify support immediately upon a significant income change,” the attorney notes.
Apparently, Sapp is also looking to reduce some other payments — he has six children in total, with five different women. He’s currently paying out a total of $75,495 a month in alimony and child support. According to his April bankruptcy filing, he still makes $115,881 per month, but after the support payments plus taxes and his mortgage he had little left over.
A bankruptcy trustee recently held an auction of Sapp’s goods to repay creditors as part of his agreement. His house, which he built in 2005 for $7 million, initially went for $2.1 million until the bank rejected the bid.
In happier news, Sapp is on a short list of candidates for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year.