Kanye to pay $200,000 / month in child maintenance. What lessons can be learned from the settlements of the ultra-rich?

In the long line of staggering elements of Kanye West’s most tumultuous year, him agreeing to pay a $200,000 (around £165,000) a month settlement to his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, for child support, is not even the most surprising or jaw-dropping. Here, Michael Compston discusses how this figure was decided upon and what lessons can be learned from the settlements of the ultra-ultra-rich for the remainder of society.

Before we begin, let’s look at some background. West, or Ye as he now likes to be known, is 45 and Kardashian is 42. They married in 2014 and divorced in 2022, being married for some 8 years. The couple happily had four children together, North (9), Saint (6), Chicago (4) and Psalm (2).

For starters, West and Kardashian have agreed to there being no spousal maintenance being paid to either. This, given their extraordinary wealth – both being estimated as being worth at least $1billion individually in the last twelve months, though West’s current status may be “just” that of a 9-figure millionaire – is perhaps not surprising. What they have agreed is for West to pay the sum of $200,000 a month to Kardashian for child support.

The concept of child support, or child maintenance in England & Wales, is one whereby one parent pays a monthly sum to the other parent to ‘support’ or ‘maintain’ the children. The use of the word ‘maintain’ is perhaps more helpful in understanding what the concept of child support actually is. The children must be maintained in the lifestyle that they have become accustomed to. It is most commonly paid by the parent with whom the children spend less time, though in the West v Kardashian case the arrangements in the US case for the children are seemingly shared. The mechanism by which a court would consider maintenance is paid is found under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, though most separating couples will use the maintenance calculator on the Child Maintenance Service website.

In some cases where the ultra-ultra-rich are not concerned, this might extend to items such as ballet lessons, horse riding, art workshops etc. If the couple used to holiday abroad twice a year, then the children should still be able to do so upon divorce, if it can be afforded. Divorce should not be a reason why a child is not able to continue to take part in the activities that they enjoyed when the family lived together all under one roof.

In cases of the West children, the activities are slightly more extravagant. They will not be staying at chain hotels but staying at the most luxurious accommodation worldwide. It is not uncommon for either parent to fly by private jet; those tickets do not come cheap even for the uber-wealthy. The elder children have become accustomed to that lifestyle and would not be expected to have to go without, irrespective of how detached from the norm we may consider that to be. As a family very much in the “A-List”, there are security costs to ensure their safety. All of this has a cost, even to the billionaires.

Schooling is often a big factor. As part of financial settlements upon divorce in England and Wales, the court can make specific school fees orders that ensure a child is kept in the level of education to which they have become accustomed. The West children all attend a fee-paying school and if this was being dealt with in England and Wales it would not be expected to stop attending that school, or a school of similar standing especially as they progress from elementary (primary) to high (secondary) school, because of their parent’s divorce. It is understood that the couple have agreed to share the school fees, which will have been factored into the $200,000 a month payment; not only this, but college funds will need to have been carefully considered for all four.

West and Kardashian have, perhaps sensibly, avoided the need for a trial by reaching a settlement. This is behaviour that would be encouraged regardless of the parties’ wealth and behaviour that we would encourage in those individuals struggling to reach an agreement. By avoiding the trial, they have avoided the considerable expense and emotional difficulty of having their finances and activities laid bare in front a judge, before a decision is made without necessarily having their agreement.

The same principle applies in the ‘real world’, In England and Wales if you attend a final hearing on finances, you are handing over the power to make decisions to a Judge. Negotiations beforehand may result in an outcome that, whilst not ticking every box, might just be a better settlement for both, rather than risk a Judge falling closer to the opponent’s side of the spectrum than yours.

West’s 2022 has been chaotic, to say the least. He has lost a number of endorsements as a result of anti-semitic rants and has been suspended from Twitter. Mega companies such as Adidas and Balenciaga have cut all ties with him. This will no doubt impact his finances for years to come and it may be that the $200,000 a month payment to Kardashian is unaffordable in the future. West will need to bring the matter back to court and provide sufficient evidence that his means have dwindled to the extent he cannot pay the sum agreed. The same principle operates in any settlement in England and Wales; if there is a material change in the financial circumstance of the paying party, then it is only fair that a reassessment be considered. A party cannot simply choose not to work or not be employed to an appropriate standard to try and frustrate the other parent; it is unlikely that if the case was being dealt with over here we would see West stacking shelves in a supermarket any time soon, as he would be accused of failing to maximise his earning potential.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised here, please get in touch today. We are here to help.


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