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Celebrity case reveals flaws in child support system

Illinois residents may be familiar with some of the headline-grabbing cases involving celebrities and their child support disputes. Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian was required to pay $100,000 in month in child support for a girl who turned out to be some other man's biological daughter. Actress Halle Berry pays $240,000 a year to her ex-boyfriend for child support. Now, the case of actor Charlie Sheen and his ex-wife, Brooke Mueller, demonstrates how flaws in the child support system may encourage some parents to use their children for financial gain.

Mueller, who has twin sons with Sheen, receives $55,000 a month from the actor for child support. Mueller has struggled with drug addiction for many years and has undergone several stints in rehab. During some of these stays, the twins have been cared for by actress Denise Richards, who is Sheen's first wife and the mother of his two daughters. Now, despite the fact she has been admitted to drug rehab once again, Mueller is trying to have the boys taken away from Richards. Sheen's lawyers say Mueller is trying to remove the boys from Richards' care solely to ensure her continued receipt of child support from Sheen, which is her only source of income.

The Sheen custody dispute has left some people wondering whether Mueller really needs $55,000 a month - more than many people make in a year - to raise her sons or whether some of that money has been spent on Mueller's drug addiction to the detriment of her sons. The case raises a larger issue regarding the challenges faced by the child support system in making sure children receive sufficient financial support for their care while making it difficult for parents to game the system.

Some legal experts say restrictions on how child support may be spent would be too difficult to enforce. Others say caps on the amount of child support received are necessary. Most agree that it is important for anyone involved in a child support dispute to seek advice from an experienced family law attorney.

Source: The Root, "Child-Support Laws: A Boon for Gold Diggers?", Keli Goff, May 22, 2013

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