Family Law Corner: How 28 days can cost $10.25 million

Until recently, the famously private billionaire Kirk Kerkorian was known for his work in shaping Las Vegas and creating mega resorts.  Now he will be known as the man paying $100,000 per month in child support for a child who is not biologically his own.

In 1999, Kerkorian was married for 28 days to former professional tennis player Bonder Kerkorian.  The two started a battle over child support in 2002 that ended recently with a stipulation that Kerkorian will pay his ex-wife $100,000 per month in child support, more than $10 million in back child support, and $50,000 per month once their daughter, now twelve, turns 18.  In addition, according to the Huffington Post, Kerkorian will pay school costs, equestrian expenses, clothing, housing, travel, hobbies, automobile, food, beauty treatments, tutoring, entertainment, parties and pets.

In this odd situation, Kerkorian is the legal father of this little girl and is responsible for her financial support even though he is not her biological father.  This situation is a result of Family Code §7611 which states a man is presumed to be the legal father of a child if he and “the child's natural mother are or have been married to each other and the child is born during the marriage, or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce, or after a judgment of separation is entered by a court.”  In an effort to provide children with the security of knowing who their parents are, the Family Code also has a provision that blood tests must be done no later than two years after the child’s birth.  After two years, a presumptive father becomes a legal father.  (Family Code §7541).

In a maneuver reminiscent of soap operas, it is reported that Kerkorian did request a blood test, but that Bonder Kerkorian faked the blood test by using a sample from Kerkorian’s adult daughter.  Ultimately, her biological father was determined to be film producer/billionaire Steve Bing (who sued Kerkorian for having a private detective collect his dental floss to test for DNA). 

While case law has addressed belated requests to determine parentage, there are no cases addressing fraud like this.  Had this case been tried, it would have presented the novel issue of how to give children security in knowing who their parents are while not condoning fraud.  In the end, Kerkorian and his ex-wife reached a settlement which put an end to these legal and moral questions.