The Bren Case: A Refreshing Perspective on Child Support

Background: According to the latest U.S. Government estimates, the average family in the highest income bracket (average income–$112,000 per year) spends $1,340 a month to raise each child. Yet some men are paying 20 times that much a month in child support. Most of this money is not going to the child, but instead to finance a wealthy lifestyle for the custodial parent. That’s not the purpose of child support, which is supposed to be for the child. To learn more, click here.

In the Los Angeles Times opinion column below, Dana Parsons makes some relevant points about child support in the Bren case. Donald Bren, the chairman of the Irvine Co., pays $17,000 per month per child in child support but his two teenage children want a readjustment that would bring the total to over $2 million a month.

Parsons spares us the usual lecture on Bren’s stinginess and hesitance to man up to his “responsibilities,” and instead looks at the case from a refreshing angle.

Hey, Bren kids, make your own way
Los Angeles Times, 12/27/07
By Dana Parsons

Some teenagers need an iPhone in the worst way. Not that a 40-inch plasma TV wouldn’t do nicely in the bedroom too.

But those teens aren’t the offspring of Donald Bren, the chairman of the Irvine Co., a man of the world and always at or near the top of the list of Orange County’s richest men. His kids, it turns out, set their sights a bit higher.

The Times reported this week that two of Bren’s teenage children want a readjustment in the child support he’s been paying. Through their lawyer, the teens say the formula for determining such things might put their fair share at roughly $2.2 million a month.

For each of them.

They’ve gone to court to collect, after alleging a few years ago that Dad hadn’t made good on a promise to support them in a style to which they’d like to grow accustomed and that reflected the way he lives.

The next courthouse showdown is set for a week from today.

I’m a little skeptical of monetary figures in lawsuits, but Bren’s lawyers say he’s been paying $17,000 a month for each of the two children, per an agreement with the children’s mother, whom he never married.

Not to get bogged down in minutia, but the $2.2-million figure may not be etched in stone. The teens’ lawyer told The Times that a precise and fair amount — based on the state’s child-support formula — can’t be determined without a full accounting of Bren’s actual wealth. The $2.2 million was divined by taking published accounts of Bren’s wealth — Forbes magazine, for example, has estimated his wealth at $8.5 billion — and crunching some numbers.

Most rich guys would rather tell you they’re using Viagra than reveal their net worth, so don’t hold your breath on Bren going that route. The matter sounds like something that will be negotiated behind closed doors.

But let’s play along. Let’s talk about what’s fair. About what makes sense.

Who wouldn’t be sympathetic to a couple of teenagers who just want a fair shot? They didn’t ask to be born to a rich guy. Should they be downgraded as if they were some kind of junk bond?

If I could just have a minute of the kids’ time. . . .

Kids, you don’t want $2.2 million a month. You don’t even want $2 million. Or $1 million. You don’t even want $50,000 a month.

You may think you do, but you don’t. You’re much too young to have your own yacht or to fly off, if the mood strikes on a slow weekend when there’s nothing good on TV, to the French Riviera.

For now, settle for Turtle Rock in Irvine, not Turtle Island in Fiji.

Make friends, don’t buy them. When you have millions of dollars coming in every year, it’s hard to know who your real friends are. Just ask Britney Spears.

Would you rather discover life on your own or have it handed to you?

The correct answer is, you’d rather discover it. Find out what it’s like, while you’re young, to be short of cash and to need a skill to get a job.

Doesn’t something inside you tell you it’d be much more rewarding to have your own money than your dad’s?

Oh, I’m not being fair?

I’m guessing your dad never gave you the talk about life not being fair. What’s fair is creating your own future.

It’s fair because that’s, in large part, how most other kids have to do it.

How fair is it that you get a million-dollar head start on other teenagers?

Let’s face it, it was just luck of the draw that you were born into wealth instead of poverty. So, let’s not talk fair.

Let’s talk about you carving out a meaningful life for yourselves.

I’m not saying your father doesn’t have financial responsibility for you. He does, by definition of being your father.

What I’m trying to tell you two is that it isn’t about him, it’s about you.

You can’t equate his money to your happiness. No state formula ever devised could do it.

At the moment, you’re one judge’s decision away from Easy Street.

Don’t take it. Take the longer way around, maybe take a road with a pothole or two in it.

Read the full column here.

[Families Against Confiscatory Child Support is the national voice for fair and reasonable child support. To learn more, go to or contact them at]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *