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Petition claims Panthers' player owes $23K in child support

Houston native Brandon LaFell, a wide receiver for the National Football League's Carolina Panthers, was recently the subject of a dispute over the financial welfare of a toddler. A Texas woman brought a child support enforcement claim against LaFell for the former couple's biological son.

The 28-year-old Harris County plaintiff said the athlete fell into arrears with the monetary contributions he was ordered to make for the child. Last February, a Texas family court judge ordered LaFell to pay $4,000 per month for child support. The temporary order was reconsidered during the summer when support was set at $1,500 per month, the Texas per-child maximum.

The complaint alleged LaFell owed $23,000 in back support because the judge who decided the case never signed the modification order. The toddler's mother said the inflated request for $4,000 in monthly support payments was needed for the child's unspecified health problems.

The football player's attorney said the lawsuit was an attempt to exploit the NFL athlete's fame. LaFell adjusted his support payments after the modification in June as directed by the court. According to his lawyer, LaFell never missed a child support payment for the Texas toddler.

The mother's petition requested $5,000 for legal fees. The complaint also asked the court to order the Carolina Panthers to garnish LaFell's $540,000 seasonal pay at a $4,000-per-month rate.

LaFell now resides in Charlotte, the Panthers' headquarters, with the mother of the wide receiver's two other children.

Child-related legal issues can be especially difficult for unmarried parents. The complexity of child support and custody cases grows when parents no longer share residence in the same state.

Errors, like a judge's alleged failure to sign a court order, add complications to already intricate legal situations. The rules pertaining to child support in one state may be different in another jurisdiction. Adults, including family court judges, must sort out the details without compromising the best interests of a child.

Source: charlotteobserver.com, "Houston woman: Panther owes thousands in child support," Joseph Person, Dec. 12, 2012

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