Family Law: Special Considerations When Representing Professional Athletes
While we await news of Tom Brady’s Deflate-Gate appeal, the National Basketball Association playoffs coming up fast, and the latest hints that Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian may not follow through with their divorce after all, it is apropos to address issues that are germane to the family law representation of a professional athlete.
Like most professions, a professional athlete is compensated pursuant to his or her employment contract. However, while that employment contract may be based on skills obtained before or during the marriage, may be negotiated during marriage, and provide a predictable sum of earnings, those earnings are often based on performance after separation.
So, the question arises, do the payments belong to the community or are they separate property?
Furthermore, athletes may receive additional income from sponsorships and endorsements above what is set forth in their employment contract. Even though there is no celebrity goodwill in California, this additional income may be income available for support.
Additionally, depending on the athlete’s income and where the parties live, he or she may be a high-earner. What may be considered a high-earner in Bakersfield may not be a high-earner in Beverly Hills.
Finally, custody can be more complicated—how do you work visitation when the athlete is travelling for games? Who pays for the travel? Does the child travel alone, with a tutor, and where does he or she stay while away?
There are no simple answers, but awareness of these issues is critical and provides an opportunity for good lawyering.