16 Feb Harriet B. Rotter in the Detroit Free Press: Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera makes $30M a year, shorts kids on child support
Here’s an idea: Maybe Miguel Cabrera should take care of all of his kids — the three he chose to have with wife Rosangel Cabrera, and the two he chose to have with Belkis Mariela Rodriguez, the woman with whom he had a long-term extramarital affair.
Cabrera’s a grown man whom one presumes understands how babies are made. If he didn’t take steps to prevent Rodriguez from becoming pregnant before he started the affair, you’ve got to assume that he intended to father children, or at least considered the risk acceptable.
After years of keeping his affair under wraps, the Detroit Tigers’ star first baseman has spent the last six months fighting Rodriguez’s attempt to win more child support in a Florida court.
It’s easy to get distracted by the big numbers here: At present, Cabrera, 34, pays Rodriguez, 35 of Orlando, $15,000 a month, a sum she says isn’t sufficient to pay the mortgage on the $1 million home she purchased last year with his financial assistance, and, presumably, encouragement.
But let’s do the math: An online mortgage calculator and tax estimator for Orlando suggests that the bank note and taxes on a $1-million house could near $10,000 a month. Cabrera is paid $2.5 million each month. (We can talk later about the cultural dysfunction that pays cops in this state an average $53,000 and teachers an average $61,000 and showers cash on a man who makes a living hitting a ball with a stick.) That’s $30 million a year. At $15,000 a month, Cabrera is spending .6% of his monthly pretax haul to support his children, whose paternity he’s never contested.
Rodriguez’s suit was prompted, according to court filings, by Cabrera’s unilateral decision to decrease monthly support from $20,000 to $15,000, a sum Rodriguez says isn’t sufficient to cover the mortgage and living expenses, and a move she believes was prompted by an attempt to appease Rosangel Cabrera, who’d filed for divorce after learning about the affair.
Still, it’s easy to dismiss the claims of a woman who says $15,000 a month isn’t enough to pay the bills as petulant whining.
But child support isn’t a referendum on whether one or both parents are decent people, or even pleasant ones. Rather, it ensures that parents provide for their children’s needs at a level commensurate with the parent’s income.
When your father makes $30 million a year, “need” is a subjective term, says attorney Harriet Rotter, a partner at Franklin-based Rotter & Stone Matrimonial Law. And that’s where the conflict comes in.
Rodriguez has argued in court filings that Cabrera could afford to pay up to $100,000 a month, a sum the court is unlikely to award her.
In Michigan and many other states, child support for regular folks with regular incomes is determined by formula. But for multimillionaires, it works differently — women seeking support don’t get a fixed standard percentage of an ex-husband’s pay. At some point, policymakers reason, kids just don’t need that much money.
“No child needs more than one pony” is a dictum familiar to attorneys who’ve worked on high-income child support cases, Rotter said. The theory is that that the children of very rich divorcees deserve to live well … but not too well.
“What is the goal? To make sure these children have all the accoutrements that fit this income,” Rotter said. “They ought to be living in a nice house, go to the school of (their parents’) choice, go on nice vacations, but most of all, they should be able to see their father.”
The parents’ marital status shouldn’t be a factor in a child support ruling, said attorney Carole Chiamp, of Detroit-based Chiamp & Associates PC.
When rich parents stay married, no one questions their childrens’ right to both parents’ financial resources. It seems bizarre that children are deemed to deserve less when those parents divorce.
Had Rosangel Cabrera pursued a divorce, she would have been able to make a claim on Cabrera’s earnings during the span of the marriage, when it comes to child support, she might find herself in the same position as Rodriguez, Chiamp said.
“She’s going to be in the same position as the other mother of the children because (Cabrera might argue that) those kids don’t need that much money,” she said. “Need? What’s need? When you’re rich you go to these schools, take these vacations, go to these classes.”
For years, the pair handled support without a court order, with Cabrera paying Rodriguez $12,000 a month after the birth of their son, now 5; $15,000 after a now 2 1/2-year-old daughter was born; and $20,000 a month in 2017, after Rodriguez bought the home. Friends told Free Press reporter Tresa Baldas that Rodriguez regularly traveled with the children to see Cabrera.
Cabrera’s attorney wrote in a court filing that Rodriguez is asking for an unreasonable support payment as de facto alimony.
But if that’s what the first baseman believes to be true, there’s a common workaround, both Chiamp and Rotter said — place money in excess of a reasonable child support payment into a trust, a common practice to secure future funds for the children of athletes whose high-earning years are limited in number.
I feel really bad for Mrs. Cabrera. Infidelity is a painful betrayal, and I’m grateful that I can’t imagine how hard it is to put a marriage back together after a blow of this nature.
But I also feel sorry for Cabrera, who, it seems, has lost sight of the fact that children are at the heart of this conflict. His children.
And those are the people I feel worst for, in this whole giant mess. Those two kids are entitled to the same love, support, and financial security as their half-brothers and sisters.
Cabrera might try to remember that if he wins this court fight, it’s his children, not their mother, who will lose.