As I currently represent two NFL players in their Family Court matters, I wanted to write about how the NFL lockout has had a negative impact on NFL players’ salaries and their family life– most of all, child support.
After the hoopla of the Super Bowl died down in February of this year, the attention of NFL fans turned collectively to the impending lockout. Despite the “valiant” efforts of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and the owners of the thirty-two (32) teams, the attempts at negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement ceased on March 11, 2011. On that date, the NFLPA elected to ‘decertify’ the union. In response, the owners initiated a lockout of the players. The result, ten (10) NFL players filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league. A decision was issued in the United States District Court by the Honorable Judge Susan Richard Nelson on April 25, 2011 which invalidated the lockout, which would allow the NFL players to resume training with their teams. However, the NFL has already appealed the decision and refuses to open up any training facilities until the appeal is decided. Now that we have reviewed the procedural aspects, what does this all mean for the NFL players who have to pay child support?
When an NFL player is ordered to pay child support during his tenure as an active player, such support is commensurate with his high earner status. (The NFL league minimum salary in 2010 was $310,000.00 per annum). However, the average NFL player salary in 2010 hovers around the $1,000,000.00 per annum mark. During a lockout, however, there is no salary. This means that all of those child support orders or agreements, entered into while the NFL athlete was earning a considerable salary, become ripe for modification.
In most states, child support orders may be modified upon a showing of a “change in circumstances” or a “substantial change in circumstances”. When the salary of an NFL player, an average of almost $1,000,000.00 is reduced to zero through no fault of the player himself, as is the case of the lockout, this will surely qualify as a change in circumstances of substantial change in circumstances in almost every state.
There have been recent instances of players’ support check bouncing. Without a salary coming in, unless you are one of the superstar players in the NFL who get paid handsomely for endorsements, your support checks will soon bounce as well. Whether it is a temporary reduction in support or a more long-term reduction, when you have no income, you must seek to reduce your child support payments or risk losing your license, passport, or end up behind bars.
Moreover, if there is no NFL season, players may also seek to have their visitation with their child(ren) modified so that, while they are not traveling for six to eight months, they can enjoy watching their child(ren) grow up and be a more active parent in their lives.
Not all of these types of modifications require a trial in the courts. The parties can voluntarily agree to modify their child support and/or visitation agreements, execute them, and file them with the court. However, it must be stressed that each State has different child support and visitation laws and an attorney expert in this area of the law should be sought out for legal advice.