Steve Nash’s Child Support Dispute Turns Into PR Nightmare

GEO#1

British Columbia is proud of native son Steve Nash and rightly so. He shines for his athletic prowess, his philanthropic focus, and his entrepreneurship. An NBA all-star, his career has seen him play for Phoenix, Dallas and now, Los Angeles. He has an Order of Canada and received an honourary Doctorate in Law from the University of Victoria.

In 2001, Nash met his future wife, Alejandra Amarilla, in Manhattan. They married in June 2005 and had twin daughters, Lola and Bella, born in 2004, and then a son, Matteo Joel, born in 2010. On the day of his son’s birth, Nash made a statement to the press in which he announced his son’s birth, but called it a “bittersweet moment”, revealing that he and his wife had “lived separately for the past several months” and were “in the process of dissolving” their marriage.

Steve Nash’s marriage breakdown was just another celebrity split-up in an era where divorce announcements are as frequent as birth announcements and garnered a relatively modest amount of media attention.

However, Nash’s polished image is taking a trouncing as celebrity gossip websites announce that he and his former wife, Alejandro Amarilla, are engaged in a dispute about whether she can move with their three children from Phoenix, where the couple lived during their marriage, to Los Angeles, where Steve Nash now lives and works.

Stories circulating in the media include the allegation that Ms. Amarilla only wishes to leave Arizona so she can avail herself of what is described as California’s more generous child support laws.

The media has reported that while the children reside in Arizona, Mr. Nash is not obliged to pay child support and he is only resisting his ex-wife’s move to California so he can maintain the status quo.

Details are scarce and Mr. Nash’s advisors are keeping a low profile, however, it strains credulity to believe that Nash is a “deadbeat dad” as some twitter enthusiasts are suggesting.

What has emerged is that his ex-wife received a mult-million dollar divorce settlement, has her own financial resources, and Mr. Nash pays for the children’s education, medical and related expenses, extracurricular activities and the children’s nanny.

It is more likely that Nash’s opposition to the children’s move is because he understands that children need stability and certainty, which is what they have in Phoenix. Mr. Nash’s parents also live there. Finally, to move the children to follow their father in the waning years of his career may entail further transitions for the children as his playing days come to an end.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

No “Au Revoir” for Halle Berry

Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry will not be allowed to move permanently to France with her four-year-old daughter Nahla Ariela Aubry, a ruling made on Friday by a California judge. Nahla’s father, Gabriel Aubry is a Canadian actor and model who lives and works in Los Angeles.

Ms. Berry has battled Nahla’s father since the couple separated in 2010, pulling out the usual grab-bag of custody tricks, including her refusal to pay child support to him, later rectified by a judge who ordered that she pay $20,000 to Mr. Aubry as a joint custodial parent. There was also a failed attempt to suggest that Mr. Aubry has been “physical” with Nahla’s nanny. After a complete investigation, accompanied by a period of supervised access for Mr. Aubry, the allegations were thrown out.

When a parent applies to the court to move permanently with a child to a jurisdiction far away from home and the child’s other parent, there are a number of considerations that come into play. Is the move in the child’s best interests? The factors include:

1. Will the child be able to maintain a relationship with the left-behind parent?
2. Will the quality of the relationship with the left-behind parent be sufficient to continue the parental bond?
3. How far will the child and left-behind parent have to travel to maintain their relationship?
4. How much will it cost for the left-behind parent to travel to visit the child and who will pay the expenses?
5. Will the change in the child’s permanent residence impact on the involvement of extended family in the child’s life, such as maternal and paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins?
6. Will the move enhance the child and moving parent’s quality of life in regards to better opportunities for financial security?
7. Is the motive for the move an attempt to minimize parenting time to the other parent?

Ms. Berry’s rationale for the move is that she did not want her daughter growing up around paparazzi and the tabloids, arguing that she could provide more privacy, and a greater sense of security for her daughter in France, where coincidentally, her latest boyfriend lives.

Ms. Berry must have forgotten that Princess Diana’s death was attributed to overzealous paparazzi in Paris and that Kate Middleton’s recent nude photos were taken in France, by a local celebrity photographer. I’m sure Mr. Aubry’s lawyer remembered.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Parental Abduction On The Rise

BBC News is reporting that parental abduction is escalating in the United Kingdom, citing statistics from the Office of International Family Justice that show that while there were only 27 cases in 2007, in 2010 there were 92 cases, and 180 cases in 2011.

What accounts for the increase in parents fleeing their home countries and taking their children with them? Lord Justice Thorpe, who heads the Office of International Family Justice, notes that most of the increase involves eastern European countries and says that almost two-thirds of children born in London in 2010 have one “foreign” parent, suggesting that the wrongful abduction of children will likely increase in the future.

A spokesperson for Reunite, Sharon Cooke, points to the relative ease of international travel in the 21st century and suggests that “People are relocating, their jobs take them abroad and therefore the chances of meeting different people are greater”.

It appears she is suggesting that as international travel increases, spouses are connecting with new people and forming new spousal-like relationships, but do not wish to leave their children behind.

Many of these parents accurately predict that their desire to move away with their children will be greeted with alarm and adversity from their partners and decide to employ “self-help” methods, rather than allowing the court to determine whether they should be permitted to move.

These cases, referred to as “move-away” or “parental mobility” applications are some of the most difficult cases that Judges in family law courts face. They are also cases that often do not settle out of court because the end result is “winner takes all”. There is usually no compromise or middle ground which will satisfy both parents.

As for Canadian cases, anecdotally I can say that parental abduction also seems to be on the rise in Canada, based on the increasing number of cases I have personally handled and in regularly reading new cases on the British Columbia Superior Courts website.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict the outcome of any particular case when a parent seeks a court order allowing that parent to move with the children. Factors which favour a move include:

-The moving parent is the primary resident parent;
-The “left-behind” parent has a lesser parental role;
-The moving parent can show that the proposed move is an economic improvement for both the parent and the children;
-The moving parent has a reasonable plan to facilitate access for the left-behind parent;
-The move is not too far away: i.e. a move from B.C. to Ontario, rather than a move from B.C. to Australia;
-The left-behind parent pays little or no child support or is in arrears of child support;
-There is no evidence to suggest that the proposed move is intended to thwart the other parent’s relationship with the children.

Two recent British Columbia cases from the Court of Appeal add to the body of law that has developed in this area, ( R.E.Q. v. G.J.K. 2012 BCCA 146 and Stav v. Stav 2012 BCCA 154) but Judges and family law lawyers recognize that while precedent cases are helpful, each case has its own twists and turns, as no two cases are identical.

It is unlikely that this difficult issue will get any easier to resolve, despite the additional direction from our Court of Appeal. It is noteworthy that the Court in R.E.Q. v. G.J.K. suggests it may be time for the Supreme Court of Canada to weigh in on the tension between what is in a child’s best interests and the rights of a parent to move if he or she believes it is the best option.

What everyone can agree on is that fleeing with a child is the worst possible scenario.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang