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Charlie Sheen and Varying his $55,000 Monthly Child Support Payment


Apparently, Charlie Sheen can no longer afford to make his monthly child support payment of $55,000 for his twin sons.

According to People.com, the actor used to make approximately $613,000 per month in while working on the show “Two and a Half Men” back in 2011.  It was around that time that he and the mother of the twins made the current support agreement.  Since Sheen has recently sold his rights to royalties stemming from the sitcom, he is no longer bringing in the same level of income.  Sheen claims that his average monthly income is now around $87,000.  He further claims that his significant debt load, health care and others expenses make it impossible for him to keep up the level of support these days.

In Ontario, a court has the power to make change (or “vary”) child support under the Divorce Act (DA) and the Family Law Act.  However, any such change must be made in accordance with the Federal Child Support Guidelines (FCSG) if under the Divorce Act and the Ontario Child Support Guidelines (OCSG) if under the Family Law Act.  The OCSG is the same as the FCSG to ensure the same treatment of child support orders for married/divorce parents and unmarried parents are the same.  Since Sheen and the twin’s mother, Brooke Mueller, were married, the DA and the FCSG would govern if the matter were heard in Ontario.

Before an Ontario court may vary Sheen’s child support order, section 17(4) of the DA requires that Sheen demonstrate that there has been a material change in circumstances in within the meaning with section 14 of the FCSG.  According to FSCG section 14, a change of circumstances that give rise to a variation of a child support order include:

  1. Situations where the support payor’s income has either increased or decreased such that the amount they are currently paying is no longer in accordance with the basic FCSG table amount of support originally determined under their previous level of income; or
  2. Where the child support amount was not determined in accordance with a table amount, any change in the means, needs, any change in the condition, means, needs or other circumstances of either spouse or of any child who is entitled to support.

If Sheen’s child support obligations were set out in a Separation Agreement and not a court order, the material change in circumstances changes threshold would likely still apply.  In Ontario, it is standard practice for family lawyers to include a clause in Separation Agreements that the child support provisions of the agreement may be reviewed when there is material change in circumstances.  The definition of “material change” in such clauses reference the applicable child support guidelines to ensure compatibility with the law.  Regardless, in Ontario, child support provisions in separation agreements are always reviewable by a court as child support must be in the children’s best interests.

The difference between Sheen’s income today and five years ago when the child support agreement was made likely constitutes a material change in circumstances.  Going from $613,000 per month ($7,356,000 per year) to an average of $87,000 per month ($1,044,000 per year) is a drastic change in income in relatively brief period of time.  With an average income of $87,000 a month and a monthly child support payment of $55,000, his child support obligation to the twins is already more than half of what he earns.

If Sheen were an Ontario resident, his monthly child support amount in 2011 under the Charlie Sheen based on an annual income of $7,356,000 per year would be approximately $85,582.  Based on his current estimated income of $1,044,000 per year, his table amount of support would be approximately $12,204 per month.  As such, it is highly likely that a court would find a sufficient material change in circumstances arising from Sheen’s decreased income.  If Sheen were paying table support under the 2011 child support agreement or order, the $55,000 amount is no longer the appropriate amount of table support.

If the Sheen’s current amount of child support was not determined using the tables due to his status as a high income payor, there still has been a significant change in his means to pay support under the 2011 agreement.

Andrew Feldstein The Feldstein Family Law Group (FFLG) is one the largest family law firms that practices Family Law exclusively in Greater Toronto, with 9 lawyers and counting. The boutique law firm has won the Top Choice Award for Family Law™ in Toronto for the past ten years (2007 to 2016 inclusive). Managing Partner Andrew Feldstein has been practicing family law for more than 20 years and frequently comments on Family Law issues through the media. The Feldstein Family Law Group offers vast written, video, and media resources on its website to those who find that they need to end their relationship.