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Why are so many pro athletes going broke from child support?

One topic entertainment news outlets can't seem to stray far from is the plight of the celebrity father in child support arrears. Professional athletes who owe up to hundreds of thousands of dollars seem to be especially prominent figures in celebrity tabloids. How does this happen when they're earning sky-high salaries most parents can hardly fathom?

Recently we discussed the plight of former pro basketball player Dennis Rodman, who at last count owed more than $800,000 in child support for two of his children, as well as $51,000 in alimony. His attorney explained that because he's no longer earning an NBA salary, he has already paid more child support than he earned in the past year.

Also making the news the past several months for his non-athletic pursuits is Terrell Owens, the wide receiver for teams including the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles. He recently filed for bankruptcy to keep up with his annual child support payments of $240,000 for each of his four children.

And there are many others. New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie has 10 children from eight different relationships, including his current marriage. His payments of $3,500 each to seven mothers of his children amount to nearly $300,000 a year. Other athletes include football player Ray Lewis and NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, both of whom have six children by four women; Calvin Murphy, who has 14 children; and Evander Holyfield, who has nine children with six women.

So many of these athletes have said their child support payments are causing them to go broke. Part of the problem is that their high salaries have been considered in each of their child support agreements, so they pay more than most of us would, even if the percentage of their income is similar. Not helping matters is the fact that they have many children with different women, all of whom demand financial support.

That doesn't mean you have to be a professional athlete or have multiple partners to struggle with child support payments. If you're feeling in over your head, it may be time to consider a modification. Working with a family law attorney can help you avoid the risk of facing penalties for failure to pay the support you owe by lowering the monthly amount, especially if your financial circumstances have changed as they do for so many retired athletes.

Source: The Grio, "Does 'baby mama drama' make pro athletes go broke?" Kunbi Tinuoye, April 20, 2012

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