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When does child support amount to unintentional alimony for the custodial parent?

That's basically the question that the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera is asking after a Florida judge ordered him to pay a former mistress $20,000 a month in unallocated child support plus a whole host of other child-related expenses, including passes to theme parks and medical care for the children he had with her out of wedlock.

The judge noted that the amount of support being ordered is well above the norm but stated that it is in line with the benefits and lifestyle enjoyed by the ballplayer's other three children -- the ones he has with his wife. The judge basically stated that all of Cabrera's children should benefit equally from his $30 million annual salary. That means that the children of his affair deserve the same kind of vacations, birthday parties and other bonuses that the children of his marriage receive.

Cabrera, for his part, sees the $20,000 per month in unallocated support as excessive. Unallocated support means that the recipient isn't required to use it in any specific manner. In this case, Cabrera believes that the unallocated support amounts to a form of alimony to a woman he was never married to in the first place. He's asking the judge to reduce the order to $13,000 a month instead.

In the appeal, Cabrera's attorney stated that the judge "placed considerable, even undue emphasis, on the standard of living of the mother," and guaranteed her a "luxurious lifestyle." The filing points out that the purpose of child support is not to subsidize the income of the mother but to primarily benefit the children. The appeal also notes that the mother does not work, although she is capable of doing so.

For her part, the mother's attorney noted that she could have asked for significantly more -- up to $137,000 per month by Florida's normal method of allocating support. He stated that the mother is in no way attempting to gain "unreasonable sums of money in the hopes of securing 'alimony' for herself."

It remains to be seen how this case will finish, but it's a good reminder to others that disputes over alimony and child support can often intertwine. The issues are seldom as clear-cut as people would like them to be. That's why it's smart to seek legal advice early if you're facing a divorce.

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