Slam Dunk for Steve Nash?

A ruling on LA Laker Steve Nash's lengthy court battle is expected later this summer. The Canadian point guard and ex-wife Alejandra Amarilla Menrath gave closing arguments in a mobility case late last week.

Menrath applied to move with the children to Los Angeles, (where Nash currently lives and works) however Nash insists the children remain in Phoenix, stating, “I don’t want my kids to grow up in LA.” (TMZ.com.) Nash joined the Lakers in 2012, after eight years with the Phoenix Suns and reportedly plans to retire in Arizona when his time with the NBA is over.

The unstated issue surrounding the conflict seems to be over a potential child support claim. Nash and Menrath divorced in 2011, and an Arizona judge ruled that a multi-million dollar settlement in Menrath's favour was sufficient, denying any claim for child support. (The couple have three children together.) Nash reportedly pays most of the children's expenses already, and Menrath is said to be financially self-sufficient.

If Menrath is allowed to relocate to California, she may have a successful claim based on California's mandatory child support regime. Similar to Canada's Child Support Guidelines, California courts are required to order the amount of child support determined by the guidelines unless the case fits one of the few legal exceptions to the rule. In general, departures from the guidelines are only permitted in cases of substantial wealth, or the support of other children.

Menrath bears little burden of proof when it comes to previous agreements and orders. California law states, "if the parties to a stipulated agreement stipulate to a child support order below the guideline amount, no change of circumstances need be shown to obtain a modification of the order".

The legal principles supporting Menrath's claim are that "each parent should pay for the children's support according to that parent's ability to pay," and that "children should share in both parents' standard of living, and child support may appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the children's lives." Based on these principles, Menrath may have a strong argument for disparity in standard of living; and Nash is presently able to pay child support.

Once a child support claim is made, the onus is on the payor to demonstrate that application of the formula would be unjust or inappropriate. Nash would likely have a valid counter argument under California Family Law, which allows the court to "adjust a presumed child support figure if the parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income and the formula amount would exceed the child's needs."

According to TMZ, Nash maintains that any additional support awarded to Menrath would result in lavish and unnecessary spending, stating, "A major reason we divorced was her incessant spending, social climbing and materialism".

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