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From The Basketball Court To The Divorce Court

Former NBA Player Seeks Spousal Support from Wife

When professional athletes are involved in separation and divorce cases, spousal support is often a key issue. Typically it is the non-player spouse seeking support from the pro athlete. In an interesting twist, however, recently reported that former NBA player Charlie Bell has filed a request for spousal support from his estranged wife, Kenya Bell:

Former NBA player Charlie Bell — who filed for divorce from Kenya [Bell] earlier this year — filed legal docs, claiming he’s been low on cash ever since the NBA dropped him last year. Charlie’s been playing pro ball internationally ever since, but the money’s just not the same — not nearly.

Charlie concedes he’s got over a mil in the bank, but claims Kenya’s the one who’s hit it big with her role on ‘Basketball Wives’ — even releasing music on iTunes — so it’s her turn to lend him a helping hand, in the form of spousal support.

Charlie claims he only makes $100k a year playing basketball in Italy — while Kenya rakes in three times that amount on ‘Basketball Wives.'”

If this case were handled in Virginia, the court would consider a number of factors under Virginia Section 20-107.1 in determining spousal support, including but not limited to the financial contributions each spouse made to the family, the financial resources of the parties, their respective earning capacities, and the extent to which either party contributed to the other’s career advancement. A big piece of the spousal support puzzle would be each party’s current income.

Under those factors, if Ms. Bell truly earns three times her pro athlete husband, she could be looking at paying spousal support if this were a Virginia case.

Under Virginia law, Ms. Bell could argue that her husband is earning less than he should by not playing in the NBA. The current minimum salary for an NBA player with 9 years of experience is $1,272,279. If Mr. Bell were playing in the NBA and not professionally in Italy, his salary would torpedo any chance of receiving spousal support from his wife. If Ms. Bell could prove to a judge that Mr. Bell had voluntarily chosen to play overseas over the NBA, then the court could find him voluntarily underemployed and impute an NBA salary to him for support purposes.

Mr. Bell would have an interesting argument of his own to make under Virginia law. Ms. Bell’s higher income is based on her role in the VH1 television series “Basketball Wives.” Mr. Bell could argue that, if it weren’t for his NBA career, his wife would not be a reality TV star, nor would she earn a six-figure income. Mr. Bell could argue that he contributed substantially to his wife’s finding and landing this very lucrative job, and that he should therefore receive spousal support based in part on this fact.

Until Virginia adopts a set formula for determing spousal support, as it has for child support, cases like these will turn on the specific facts and circumstances of the parties.

The family lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P.C., are experienced in handling spousal support cases throughout Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington, Manassas, Woodbridge, Stafford, Fredericksburg and all of Northern Virginia. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.