February 22, 2021 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Doubtless actress Halle Berry’s been reading the NPO blog. What else can we conclude when we read this (All About Laughs, 2/9/21)?
Several years ago I penned a few pieces on Berry’s custody and child support agonistes with former model Gabriel Aubry and their daughter Nahla, who’s now about 12.
The upshot back then was that Berry had a new boyfriend who lived in Paris. She and Aubry had joint custody of Nahla, but Berry wanted to take the girl and move to France. A custody evaluator and the judge in the case said ‘no,’ because doing so would have deprived Nahla of her father. That made complete sense, but of course the press was indignant that Mom shouldn’t get her way. The always reliable Huffington Post claimed that the judge told Berry she couldn’t move away. Naturally, that was utterly untrue. Berry could travel anywhere she wanted. What she couldn’t do was take the child with her and deprive Nahla of a meaningful relationship with her father. Writers at the HuffPo were entirely unable to grasp the concept that a mother couldn’t do exactly what she wanted with her child.
But that wasn’t all. Aubry was ultimately given primary custody of Nahla and Berry was ordered to pay child support, first in the amount of $20,000 per month, and later $16,000. Meanwhile Aubry chose to eschew gainful employment. I said both were outrageous. I said that it doesn’t take $16,000 per month to raise a child and that Aubry should get off his duff and get a job. Doing so might have lowered Berry’s payments, but more importantly, it would have demonstrated to Nahla that her father wasn’t a deadbeat and that one should support oneself. Aubry’s failure to get a job also meant that he was living off the child support, i.e. the money that was supposed to be exclusively for Nahla. After all, the money to pay the bills came from somewhere and certainly wasn’t from him.
In her most recent comments, Berry seems to agree.
“However, as for child support, I feel I can speak on it as I’ve been paying it for a decade now. I feel if a woman or a man is having to pay support that is way more than they reasonably need to help SUPPORT the child, I think that is wrong.”
“I understand some parents (man or woman) may need help, but I feel in these modern times both men and women have the responsibility to financially take care of their children and work hard and make every effort to do so.”
She continued: ”The way many laws are set up, people are allowed to USE children in order to be awarded money to live a lifestyle that not only did they not earn, but that is way above and beyond the child’s reasonable needs and that is ‘THE WRONG’ and where I see the abuse.
She concluded with “The laws are outdated and no longer reflect the modern world. This is just my opinion, I clearly don’t own the truth. I can say I’m living it every day and I can tell you it’s hard. I do totally understand the feelings of those men who feel they are and have been taken advantage of by the system.”
I completely agree – with all but one of her points, that is. Berry claims “it’s hard.” It’s not. For Halle Berry, paying $16k per month is nothing. When last we checked, she was worth $60 million, so each year she doles out less than 1/300th of her net worth in child support. No, Halle, it’s not hard.
But I do understand. It’s not the money, it’s the principle. It’s the very idea that a child should receive in support vastly more than she could ever need. It’s the fact that non-custodial parents routinely don’t use “child support” for the child, but for themselves. And yes, that grates.
In NPO’s continuing battle to reform family courts, maybe Halle Berry could take some of that vast net worth and put it to work. She can complain all she wants to, but that’ll never make matters better. So Halle, why not put your shoulder to the wheel along with the rest of us and really make a difference? Help NPO make family courts make sense.