Where did all the money go?

Super Bowl Champion and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister says he is broke. Hard to believe given that in 2004 he signed a seven-year, $55 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens. As a result, Mr. McAlister is seeking to get his monthly child support payments lowered.

To be fair, McAlister did not earn the entire $55 million - he was cut by the Ravens after the first five years of the contract. His gross income from 2004-2008 was approximately $39 million. McAlister retired from the National Football League in 2009 and claims he has no income. This is accurate. He also claims that he lives in his parent's home now, and that they provide him with all basic living expenses, as he does not have the money to support himself. This is also, apparently, accurate. So what happened to all that money? I can go through my paycheque pretty quickly, but I am inclined to think it would not be so easy if my bi-weekly paycheque was worth $327,380.50 before taxes.

In addition to his mega-contract cited above, Mr. McAlister received a $10 million signing bonus in 2004 and a roster bonus of $7.5 million the following year. During the years leading up to the contract when he played professional football, McAlister had an aggregate gross salary of $6 million, and earned a cash bonus for winning the Super Bowl in 2000. All of these earnings would be factored into his child support payment obligation as he should still have some capital remaining that should generate an income.

McAlister has engaged in a battle with ex-wife over custody and support. Pretending for a minute that Mr. McAlister and his ex-wife were Canadian citizens, and lived in Toronto, how would a judge in a Canadian courtroom view Mr. McAlister's situation? What amount of child support would he be ordered to pay on a going forward basis? He currently pays $11,000.00 per month.

The quantum of child support in Canada is determined by reference to the amounts set out in the applicable tables of the Federal Child Support Guidelines (hereinafter "CSG"). The table amounts are based on the income of the payor and the number of children he or she is responsible for supporting.

Section 3 of the CSG reads as follows:

Presumptive rule

3. (1) Unless otherwise provided under these Guidelines, the amount of a child support order for children under the age of majority is

(a) the amount set out in the applicable table, according to the number of children under the age of majority to whom the order relates and the income of the spouse against whom the order is sought; and

(b) the amount, if any, determined under section 7.

In this case, the payor has no income and he is supporting two children, but the CSG has mechanisms in place to prevent payor spouses from simply not working to avoid making child payments. The Court will impute an income where the payor spouse is intentionally underemployed.

Section 19(1)(a) of the CSG reads as follows:

Imputing Income

The court may impute such amount of income to a spouse as it considers appropriate in the circumstances, which circumstances include the following:

(a) the spouse is intentionally under-employed or unemployed, other than where the under-employment or unemployment is required by the needs of a child of the marriage or any child under the age of majority or by the reasonable educational or health needs of the spouse;

Could Mr. McAlister be working? Certainly he can no longer play professional football, but that does not mean there are no jobs out there for him. He could potentially use his status as a former NFL star to get a job in reality television or broadcasting, or even in sales for example. The judge in this case would not attribute an income of $0 to McAlister. Instead, an income would be imputed based on what he could be earning, having regard to his physical capabilities and skill-set. Ultimately, this man should be working, as he is still relatively young.

There is also plenty of evidence that the payor should have the ability to make his monthly payments. Therefore, the Judge will also consider how all the money earned by Mr. McAlister was squandered. Was it through ill-advised business ventures? Bad investments? Or was it all lost as a result of his free-wheeling, hard partying lifestyle, as alleged by many or does he still have some capital and is not disclosing same? If it were the latter, Mr. McAlister would be worse off in the eyes of the Court, however, careful consideration would have to be given the amount of income that is to be imputed because it would not be helpful for anyone if the monthly amount settled on was too difficult for Mr. McAlister to pay.

I am not sure what result Mr. McAlister is hoping for, but he certainly will not have his support payments eliminated, so my advice to him would be to update his resume as soon as possible.

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