Charlie Sheen, Ex-Wife Make Odd Child Support Deal
Despite losing custody of their twin boys, Charlie Sheen’s ex-wife Brooke Mueller is still getting child support from the actor.
Custody in the Balance
Sheen and Mueller were only married for three years and divorced in 2011. Their two sons Bob and Max were removed from Mueller’s custody by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services in May after Mueller was hospitalized for an alleged drug overdose.
The boys were reportedly placed with Sheen’s other ex-wife, Denise Richards. Mueller has struggled with drug use over the years; by early September, she had emerged from rehab and was trying to get back on her feet.
On Sept. 17, it was reported that Sheen and Mueller have made a deal outside of court with a mediator in which he would pay her $25,000 a month in child support, even though their twins aren’t living with her.
Sheen has said he didn’t want to further Mueller’s troubles by taking away all the money while she is trying to regain custody of the boys.
Sheen’s and Mueller’s situation is rather rare. Normally a parent must have custody of the children to get child support payments.
“In certain rare cases, the court may order that child support payments be made and/or continue to be made to a parent whose child custody has been temporarily suspended,” says family lawyer Alison Grcevich, with Heath Newton in San Francisco.
“If this kind of order is made, the court must base its decision on the fact that it is in the children’s best interest,” she explains. For a parent like Mueller who seems to be working hard to get custody back, eliminating all child support would make it nearly impossible for her to have the children’s home ready once she’s healthy and can regain custody.
Sheen could have gone to the family court and tried to stop payments altogether if he’d wanted to. If he had done that, it would have been up to the judge, who might have continued the payments or might have cut all Mueller’s support, Grcevich notes.
What about Richards – who actually has custody of the boys at this point: Does a third party have any rights to support?
“In California, by law both parents have an equal responsibility to support their children,” Grcevich says. “Even when the children are in the care of an appointed guardian, the parents’ duty of financial support continues. Guardians take on a great deal of responsibility, but they are still entitled to seek financial support from either parent, as well as from welfare or the county if the parents do not have the means.
“In Sheen’s case, Denise Richards may be able to seek financial support from both parents while she is caring for their children,” she adds.
In the end, it would be up to the judge if the parents can’t agree. “If neither parent has custody of the children, and a third party is caring for the children, or has been appointed the children’s guardian, the court must make a decision about who owes what in child support,” Grcevich explains.
“It would seem only equitable that the third party or children’s guardian be awarded financial support by one or both parents, but the details of that kind of order are not automatic and need to be decided either by agreement of all parties or the court,” she says.