Last night, millions of people around the world gathered to watch Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game as the American League defeated the National League 3-0. But at the same time, a former American League All Star has been facing a child support dispute that could result in jail time.
Danny Tartabull, who represented the AL in 1991, allegedly owes more than $276,000 in unpaid child support intended to provide for his two sons.
Much of the news coverage on this story has focused on the amount of money Tartabull made during in his 14-year baseball career while expressing some incredulity that someone who earned as much money as Tartabull made could fail to pay his child support obligations. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Tartabull’s peak salary was $5.3 million per year. However, Tartabull is not alone among professional athletes who have had difficulties obeying financial judgments from family law courts. Here is the reason why.
Professional athletes have very high incomes, but have relatively short careers. Often, a child support order is entered at the peak of an athlete’s career and earning capacity. Because courts determine child support awards based on a parent’s income at the time, many pro athletes have child support obligations based on their peak incomes. However, a professional athlete’s income is subject to wild fluctuations. Upon retirement, pro athletes often see their income fall to a small fraction of what they had been earning, but their child support obligations do not automatically reduce themselves.
Whenever there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a reduction in income, a parent who owes child support has the right to work with an attorney and request that payments be reduced. All too often, parents who owe high child support payments they can no longer afford fail to seek a child support modification and eventually fall behind in payments.
Source: NBCLosAngeles.com, “Ex-Major League Baseball Player Tops Child Support “Most Wanted” List,” Dan Stamm, July 12, 2013