Herschel Walker’s ‘Kiss-Off’ Baby Help Settlement

Republicans have been desperate to equate Sen. Raphael Warnock’s ex-wife asking for more child support with Herschel Walker’s long and damning list of scandals. But the comparison between the two Georgia Senate candidates is even more inapt when you consider this: Walker may actually have a more troublesome child support situation himself.

Walker claims a net worth between $29 million and $62 million, according to his personal financial disclosure. Last year alone, he reported an income of more than $4 million. But Walker pays $3,500 a month in child support for his youngest son—a son he has not seen since January 2016.

Compare the details of that child support agreement to the Republican attacks on Walker’s opponent. Warnock’s ex-wife is taking him to court to adjust his child support payments after he took an additional $174,000 a year from his salary as a senator. Asking for more money in child support when someone’s salary increases substantially—like when someone is elected to the US Senate—is a relatively standard practice that Republicans have tried to scandalize.

The Warnock campaign would not share details of the Georgia Democrat’s child support agreement with The Daily Beast and declined to comment for this story.

But to put Walker’s payments in perspective, he paid just over 1 percent of his 2021 income to his youngest child in support payments.

These details were supplied to The Daily Beast by the woman who came forward last week to disclose that she had an abortion in 2009 after she and Walker got pregnant. After Walker denied even knowing who this woman could be, the woman agreed to be identified as the mother of one of Walker’s children.

The mother shared her child support agreement with The Daily Beast this week, and we shared the details with five experienced New York family lawyers. Their verdict was unanimous: The mother got a raw deal.

“This is basically a kiss-off agreement,” said Marilyn Chinitz, partner at Blank Rome.

“My concern with this agreement is that it is in my view deficient in protecting the best interest of the child. That’s what the courts are concerned with,” Chinitz explained, naming a number of those deficiencies, including the lack of any future childcare payments, college costs, or cost-of-living adjustments. “The father, who is clearly a wealthy individual, has the finance wherewithal. All this provides for in my view is a bare minimum amount of support.”

The agreement, reached in New York family court in 2014, was two years in the making, court records and text messages show. It also included no visitation rights for Walker, who has only seen his son three times, and the last visit, according to his mother, which was in January 2016.

Walker, an outspoken critic of absentee dads, has four children with four different women. Still, he contends that he supports all of his children and they all know he loves them.

“I want to apologize to the African-American community, because the fatherless home is a major, major problem,” Walker said during a September 2020 podcast, adding that he had been “like a father to some of those kids that had never had fathers.”

The previous month, Walker told right-wing personalities Diamond and Silk that if you have “a child with a woman, even if you have to leave that woman… you don’t leave the child.”

While Walker told ABC News on Tuesday that the mother of this estranged son “makes it hard” for him to see his son, the mother told The Daily Beast she and her son have repeatedly asked the NFL star to visit. They gave up after years of unsuccessful attempts, backing those claims up with years of text messages.

The mother also said Walker—who now styles himself an anti-abortion absolutist—urged her to terminate her second pregnancy, which she refused to do.

“I said, ‘Look, you’re a human being, you can make your own decisions, and I’m not going to make you do anything if it’s something you really don’t want to do. You can be as much of a father or as little as a father as you want to be. It’s your choice, but I’m having this child,’” she said. “So he chose not to be a father. That was his choice.”

Walker’s monthly payment was $1,500 above the New York state minimum in 2014. While it wasn’t statutorily the least he could pay, the amount left the attorneys interviewed by The Daily Beast scratching their heads—especially when combined with other unusual terms in the agreement .

Imran Ansari, partner at Aidala Bertuna & Kamins, called the amount “perplexing” and an “undersell.”

“Accepting a child support settlement of $3,500 per month, without looking into the financial reality of the father, while above the state minimum, could be considered a misstep,” Ansari told The Daily Beast.

Barry Berkman, a founding partner of Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP, said the mother “definitely got the worst of the deal.”

“While it doesn’t reach the level of unconscionability, it is certainly low,” Berkman told The Daily Beast.

Asked about the lack of a custody arrangement, Berkman said it was usually the other way around: “It’s the father who’s pushing for time with the kid, and the mother resisting.”

Harriet Newman Cohen, founding partner of Cohen Stine Kapoor LLP, said the lawyers seemed to be “in different leagues.”

“If she had been able to land a hotshot attorney, like he did, she probably could have gotten more,” Cohen said, nodding to the contrast between Walker’s lead counsel, the late Jerome Tarnoff at Morrison Cohen, and the woman’s Melville, New York-based personal injury lawyer, Andres Alonso.

(Alonso declined to discuss specifics of the case.)

Cohen added that it was “not the kind of agreement I would expect from a celebrity,” pointing, like Chinitz did, to the fact that the agreement didn’t account for extras like school tuition. “College is almost always, always in there,” she said.

David Blevin, a White Plains, New York-based family lawyer with 22 years experience, said the agreed monthly payment “appears to be on the low side when compared to similar high income cases in the New York City area.”

Part of the problem with that dimension—determining the fair payment amount—is that Walker’s wealth was never adjudicated by the court. Walker offered to pay above the state minimum, which is derived from a capped salary of $141,000, or about half a million dollars less than Walker’s own stated income at the time. (“It’s not paltry, but it’s certainly not generous,” Cohen said of Walker’s offer.)

The mother—who at the time was enrolled in Columbia University for graduate school and reported less than $16,000 in income in the agreement (all student loans)—said she accepted Walker’s $3,500 offer to avoid a drawn-out and expensive legal fight. She also said she wanted to avoid the appearance of going after a wealthy celebrity for money.

But Berkman observed that with high net worth individuals like Walker, it can be difficult to see their true wealth from income tax returns—the only financial documents the woman said she was able to obtain. If the court saw Walker’s true wealth, he said, the $3,500 might appear “outrageously low.”

“He says his income was $646,000 in the agreement. That’s an important number. If that’s what he’s saying and reporting, and she had a forensic accountant go through and normalize his income—personal expenses, business expenses, other deductions—my guess is it would be a lot higher,” Berkman said. “We don’t know. She’s just taking his word for it. For one thing, the monthly payments would have been outrageously low had his real wealth been reported.”

Walker’s most recent financial disclosure, filed in August of this year, pegged his net worth between $29 million and $62 million. Because of the wide ranges in financial disclosures for candidates, it’s impossible to get a true net worth from just the forms. Walker said his stake in H. Walker Enterprises alone was worth between $25 million and $50 million. Curiously, he reported that his income from H. Walker Enterprises was “over $5 million,” while specifying elsewhere in the disclosure that it was $3,087,500. (Giving him the benefit of the doubt, The Daily Beast took the lower number when calculating his stated 2021 income.)

Asked to compare the child support agreement to typical arrangements, the lawyers pointed to several items that stood out as unusual—chiefly, missing costs for childcare and education, and the lack of any custody provision whatsoever.

“There’s nothing in here about contributing to the child’s activities—they call it ‘add-ons’—other than he pays all of the child’s health care,” Cohen said. “And there’s no relationship described.”

“No cost of living adjustment? Where is that? You gotta wonder why that’s not in there,” Berkman observed. “You generally have a COLA, to account for inflation, which as we’re seeing now can be a real problem, as well as some adjustment based on change in income circumstances. It’s just nuts that there’s no COLA. What were they thinking?”

Blevin calculated that the $750,000 life insurance requirement wouldn’t cover the full amount of the $798,000 Walker would have had to pay out until the child was of age. He also homed in on the one-time payment of $15,000 for retroactive medical and childcare, which “doesn’t address whether this satisfies all of those back expenses.”

The $15,000 amount was approximately a quarter of the $60,000 in receipts for medical and childcare costs the woman had provided at the time, she said.

“He gave her fifteen grand for childcare? How was she supposed to hold a job?” Berkman wondered. “Any court would have had to award it, had it been adjudicated. The idea that she could be seen as squeezing that from a celebrity is nonsense.”

Chinitz echoed him on the point, calling it “grossly inadequate.”

“A one-time payment? Childcare is ongoing. How do you expect a mother to work and support a child if she doesn’t have childcare?” she asked.

The woman had told The Daily Beast that she in fact tried to hold a job after graduation, but was forced to move back home with a parent to afford childcare. She’s now well-established, with a successful independent business career and her own home.

“That speaks volumes to her resiliency,” Chinitz said. “It doesn’t speak volumes to the agreement. That’s an unfair burden to put on the mother. Normally in a situation like this, both parents share the responsibility—they both have access to the child and one parent relieves the other, but this mother’s childcare should have been assumed by the father.”

All attorneys mentioned the lack of any funds for education.

“There was no discussion whatsoever or provision for the child’s education,” Chinitz said. “His tutoring, testing, extracurricular activities, sports, summer programs. All are critically important, and a parent without sufficient income is going to be left in a situation where they can’t provide, while in this case, the father is wealthy and clearly has the financial means.”

“The guy is saying he’s employing hundreds of people,” Berkman said. “Any judge would have awarded her these extracurriculars,” he said. (In 2009, Walker told The Dallas Morning News that one of his companies employed more than 100 people, and pulled in $70 million a year.)

Imran called attention back to the mother’s independence.

“Perhaps the mother chose this option so as to take the path of least resistance and carry on with raising and loving her child, despite Walker’s absence,” he said. “But in that one assumes the risk of not litigating a meaningful and lasting child support plan, while looking at Walker’s then already significant income, and considering likely future earning potential, among other things, to receive the best financial support for the child.”

Berkman, however, was more blunt.

“This kid deserves better,” he said.

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