PRESS: California Attorney Brent Kaspar On Why the Court Said Charlie Sheen Is Free of Paying His “Ex” Child Support

An interview with Ilyssa Panitz

I think for people that do not want to pay child support they realize that there is a direct correlation between an increase in the amount of physical custody they have in comparison with other parent and the amount of support they either have to pay or will receive. This can cause parents who aren’t interested in their children to have an artificial interest in parenting so they can mitigate child support.

Itappears Charlie Sheen was “winning” in a California court on October 4th when a Judge granted Sheen’s request to stop paying monthly child support to his ex-wife of four-years, Denise Richards. Multiple reports reveal the two children Sheen and Richards share, Sam, 17, and Lola, 16, have been living with “The Two and a Half Men” actor since April. After hearing the favorable ruling Sheen told magazine Us Weekly, “I think what transpired today is extremely fair. It speaks to not just today, but it speaks historically to that same fairness.” Was the Judge’s decision reasonable because the teens have been residing at their famous dad’s place for months? Brent Kaspar is the managing partner of Kaspar & Lugay, LLP. He is also a member of both the California Bar and the California Board of Accountancy. Kaspar said, like everyone else, Sheen and his legal team had to supply proof to the court because no case can have a positive result if you don’t have the credibility to back it up.

Ilyssa Panitz: Charlie Sheen appears to have scored a major victory against his ex-wife Denise Richards. A court ruled that Sheen doesn’t have to pay child support to Richards anymore because their two daughters are now living with the award-winning actor. Because the girls are not under Richards’s roof, right now, a Judge can reverse the original decision, so Sheen is not on the hook for these monthly payments?

Brent Kaspar: California child support orders are not permanent — in fact, they are always modifiable based on a “change in circumstances.” To get the ball rolling, Mr. Sheen had to file a motion to modify his support obligation based on the changed circumstances of his daughters now living with him. The prior order was predicated on the daughters not living with him. The Court generally has discretion as to when the support modification takes place, but it cannot be modified any earlier than the date the underlying motion was filed — here, December 2019. 

Ilyssa Panitz: Back in December 2019, Sheen put in a request with the court and the ruling just came on Monday. Do you know why it took so long to render a decision?

Brent Kaspar: Courts are back logged now, so it could have just been a matter of the court setting the hearing date out a considerable period of time, albeit not likely over a year. Additionally, the parties could have requested continuances as well, assuming they had a justifiable reason, such as preparing necessary discovery. 

Ilyssa Panitz: According to reports, when Sheen originally filed the petition to change the child support arrangement in December 2019, Richards did not file any paperwork in opposition. Do you know why she wouldn’t have done that?

Brent Kaspar: Typically, child support orders are perfunctory. Usually, a simple calculation via software approved by the courts that bases the support on the amount of physical custody between parents and the amount of income between parents. Where one parent has full custody, there typically isn’t any reason for the parent that has no physical custody to receive child support, as child support is to benefit the children. 

Ilyssa Panitz: In your professional opinion, did staying silent hurt her case?

Brent Kaspar: No, as it appears she no longer had any physical custody.

Ilyssa Panitz: Reports also state, Richards was not present at Monday’s court hearing, while Sheen was. Aren’t both sides obligated to be present and if not, the other side is awarded a win?

Brent Kaspar: The parties do not have to show up to a hearing unless they are directly ordered by the courts to do so. Richards had the opportunity to respond to Sheen’s motion, but she is not required to file a response. Richards probably was advised that a response was futile at this point, based on the fact that the children no longer resided with her. 

Ilyssa Panitz: Again, in your professional experience, what proof would Sheen, and his legal team have to show a court to get the ruling they were hoping for?

Brent Kaspar: That the children no longer resided with Richards.

Ilyssa Panitz: Is this decision permanent?

Brent Kaspar: This child support order is generally appealable — however, in order to prevail, Ms. Richards would need to prove that the court erred on the law it applied. Here, the law is generally clear — when there is a changed circumstance, the court has the ability to modify support. At that juncture, the Court will apply a California standard guideline to determine support based on the time the party spends with the children and the respective incomes of the Parties — and even once that figure is determined, the Court STILL has discretion to order a different support amount if that amount is in the best interests of the children.

Ilyssa Panitz: If Denise is owed back support, and if she allegedly has not received monies owed, can she go after those funds?

Brent Kaspar: Yes, she can certainly file a motion for contempt and request the court order back support paid forthwith. However, it doesn’t appear back support was at issue before the court. 

Ilyssa Panitz: Although Sheen has had 100% custody of both Sami and his daughter Lola, 16, since April, what if the girls decide to go back and live with Richards? Does Richards have to go back to court, file a motion and try to change the ruling again so she can collect monthly support?

Brent Kaspar: Yes. Richards would have the right to go back file a modification for the change in custody and support. 

Ilyssa Panitz: According to “The Daily Mail,” Sheen didn’t want records of the child support he was paying his other ex-wife Brooke Mueller who he shares twin boys with, to impact the case after he agreed to pay both women the same amount of child support. Wouldn’t each matter be deemed separate because Sheen was married to Richards from 2002–2006 and Mueller from 2008–2011?

Brent Kaspar: They are separate cases however child support is based on the comparison of income between the spouses, and the amount of physical custody the respective spouses have. The factors that are involved in determination of child support with respect to Sheen would be the same in both cases.

Ilyssa Panitz: What message does a ruling like this send to people who are going through a divorce and facing circumstances like this in the state of California?

Brent Kaspar: I think for people that do not want to pay child support they realize that there is a direct correlation between an increase in the amount of physical custody they have in comparison with other parent and the amount of support they either have to pay or will receive. This can cause parents who aren’t interested in their children to have an artificial interest in parenting so they can mitigate child support.

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Kaspar & Lugay, LLP is a family law firm with offices in Corte Madera, CA; Napa, CA; Walnut Creek, CA; and San Diego, CA. We also represent clients in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Pismo Beach, Contra Costa County, and Los Angeles.