By: Lida Hedayatpour
Twenty years ago, Mel B was one-fifth of one of the best-selling female groups of all time – the Spice Girls. Today, the America’s Got Talent judge is a mother of three, a continuous advocate of girl power, and like many people, going through a divorce. After almost 10 years of marriage to LA based producer and director, Stephen Belafonte, the couple is ready to call it quits. Until the divorce is finalized, Mel B has been ordered by the Superior Court of California to pay $40,000 a month in spousal support to Belafonte.
Belafonte’s credits include producing movies such as Thank You For Not Smoking, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and Mutant Chronicles, so why is Mel B paying almost half a million dollars in spousal support per year?
California Family Code Section 4320 considers 14 factors in determining whether a party will be awarded spousal support. Factors include the duration of their marriage, the parties’ standard of living during the marriage, and the ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support.
Texas family law also awards spousal support for many of the factors outlined in California’s code; however, the Lone Star State is not as liberal in awarding high dollar amounts in spousal support. In a request for temporary support, a court will assess the financial situation to determine if both spouses have sufficient means to meet their reasonable and necessary obligations, which may require one spouse to provide a monthly stipend of spousal support to the other spouse.
According to Texas Family Code Section 8.052, courts evaluate each spouse’s ability to provide for their spouse’s minimum reasonable needs independently, considering the spouse’s financial resources on dissolution of the marriage, and the duration of the marriage.
Mel B’s earning capacity and assets far exceed Belafonte’s. Her Net Worth is $58 million, whereas Belafonte’s is only $5 million. Additionally, Belafonte has claimed to be homeless, in debt from the $500,000 divorce costs, and without income following the break-up of the marriage. If Mel B was eligible to file her divorce in Texas, perhaps the outcome would have been different. The court would analyze Belafonte’s “minimum reasonable needs” as opposed to granting a large amount for Mel B to pay by virtue of her being able to afford it and their previously affluent lifestyle together.
Belafonte filed legal documentation requesting an allowance of $4,300 a month for food, $2,000 a month for clothes, $750 for his cell phone plan, and $11,000 for housing. Mel B has fought back on these unreasonable demands from her estranged husband, calling the $40,000 monthly alimony a “wish list.” She states that $140 a week for food can feed a family of four, that the $2,000 on clothes is unnecessary because Belafonte took his clothes when he left, and that the $11,000 for housing is senselessly high he is staying with a friend.
Texas also considers other factors when evaluating spousal support, including adultery and cruel treatment, which California does not.