Professional Burdens


(Fact - Based on Memory)


It is not easy for a professional athlete to enjoy a social life.  They are often surrounded by reporters and photographers angling for hot scoops, lurid photos, or off-the-cuff spontaneous quotes. They have to deal with intrusive fans who have no sense of boundaries or personal space.  There are people who want to leech off the athlete’s wealth or fame.  Others who want to provoke them physically as a test of manhood or for a quick buck through a law suit.  Then, there are those who want to have their babies.  


An out-of-wedlock baby fathered by a professional athlete can be a ticket out of poverty for some women, a way to a new car and a nicer apartment, and a permanent connection to the athlete’s world through shared parenthood.  No professional athlete engages in a “one-night stand” with the intent of creating a child.  There are occasions, however, when the female partner intends just that.  In no way does this excuse the athlete’s behavior; it takes two to tango and the athlete is responsible for his own actions.  Nonetheless, children are conceived and born, often to the athlete’s surprise, and then the litigation begins. 


Judges hearing paternity and child support actions are not interested in the good faith or motivations of either party on the issue of conception.  The child is here and needs the best care and support his parents can provide.  I can recall listening to arguments made by some attorneys representing unwed fathers that a lower support amount is warranted because the father had asked the mother to “take the responsible approach” and terminate the pregnancy.  This reasoning always surprised me.  It never made sense to me to treat a child differently concerning child support because the father had asked that he or she not be allowed to be born.          


During my years in Boston’s Probate and Family Court, the only professional team I never heard from was the Bruins.  I had Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and even Yankee and New York Giant players before me. 


The salaries of professional athletes are so astronomically high that normal child support guidelines cannot be applied.  My goal in these high income paternity cases was to order enough money to secure for the child a safe apartment, safe transportation and a good school district, but not a windfall for the mother. Mindful that a surprisingly high number of professional athletes end up financially broke, I also encouraged the establishment of a trust to ensure payment of child support well beyond the athletes’ short years of high earnings.  G. L. c. 208 § 36 permits a court to require security for the payment of child support in a divorce case between a married couple. Case law says that children of unmarried parents are also entitled to the same protections as children of married parents.  Although I encouraged these trusts, I did not insist that they be included in settlement agreements.  There were times when I regretted that decision, particularly when it came to professional football players whose contracts are rarely guaranteed.  I would read of a particular player being injured or released and groan, knowing there were children out there who were in for a substantial change in their standard of living. 

Probate and Family Court

Copyright © All Rights Reserved

Peter's Bench LLC

Court Stories    Focus on Marriage    Separation and Divorce    Children    Annulment   About       Home