Grimes and Elon Musk share three children, including a son known as X, who is 3.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Gyula Bartos/Hungarian President’s Press Office/MTI/Associated Press
Elon Musk and Grimes have filed parental-rights lawsuits against each other in different states.If the case turns into a child support battle, Musk would be better off if it plays out in Texas.The jurisdiction will come down to who can prove where the kids actually live, Texas or California.
Elon Musk and Grimes filed dueling parental rights lawsuits last month in Texas and California respectively — and depending on who prevails, the dispute could shape up to be one of the biggest child support cases of all time.
Musk filed his lawsuit against Grimes in Texas in early September, seeking to “establish the parent-child relationship” with the three kids he shares with the musician. A few weeks later, Grimes filed her own suit in California, seeking primary physical custody and joint legal custody.
It’s unclear what either party’s ultimate goal is, whether it is related to physical custody, legal custody, child support, or some other issue.
But the first fight is going to be over jurisdiction, attorneys with expertise in family law told Insider. The case should go forward in whichever state the children actually live, so Musk and Grimes could potentially spend the next year just trying to prove to the court that the children live in the state they each filed in, the lawyers said.
Musk’s lawsuit and Grimes’ lawsuit each suggested the children’s main residence was in the respective states they filed in: Texas for Musk, and California for Grimes.
Proving which state the kids live in could be an elaborate process that includes things like consulting flight logs and interviews with nannies, and the judges in each state could end up consulting with each other to determine the proper venue for the case to move forward.
And there’s potentially a lot riding on whether or not Musk can successfully prove that the kids primarily live in Texas, as he says.
“It’s a radically different system between Texas and California and that’s why I think Elon’s going to fight tooth-and-nail to keep it in Texas,” Christopher Melcher, a California family law attorney familiar with interstate and international disputes and a partner at Walzer Melcher, told Insider.
Attorneys for Grimes and Musk did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Why Texas favors wealthy parents
It’s too soon to say if the parental rights lawsuits will involve child support, but experts said it’s the biggest difference between the case playing out in Texas or California.
Texas caps monthly child support payments at $1,840 for one child, or $2,760 for three children, which is how many Musk and Grimes share.
That means despite Musk’s billionaire status as the richest person in the world, the child support calculator in Texas won’t spit out a value any higher than that.
California is an entirely different story.
“California has no cap,” Melcher said. “So you can put in a billion dollars a year for Elon and it would produce an outrageous amount of support.” (And Musk makes far more than that.)
Many factors go into calculating child support payments in California, including net disposable income, but it ultimately comes down to the judge to decide.
That means if Grimes successfully proves the kids live in California, it could turn out to be “one of the biggest child support cases of all time,” Peter M. Walzer, a partner at Walzer Melcher and California family law attorney who often deals with out-of-the-ordinary financial disputes, told Insider.
There are other benefits for Musk if he can get the case to play out in Texas
There may also be other advantages for Musk if the case plays out in Texas. Melcher noted that Musk was able to receive confidentiality in Texas, including the sealing of court records and heavy redactions.
Musk was able to sue Grimes so quietly that it went totally under the radar until Insider reported it on Thursday, nearly a month after he filed. The existence of Grimes’ lawsuit in California, on the other hand, was reported on quickly after it was filed, even if the details of her suit were not publicly known prior to Insider’s reporting.
If Musk’s ultimate plan is to obtain some amount of physical custody rights, keeping the case in Texas could also serve him well, Walzer said. For instance, if he’s seeking a 50-50 time split on physical custody, he’s more likely to be granted that in Texas, where he lives.
A California judge, on the other hand, may grant him the time he seeks but only in California, rather than requiring the children be constantly shuffled back and forth between their primary place of residence and their father’s home in Texas.
In that scenario, Walzer said, it could be hard for Musk to be guaranteed any significant amount of time with the kids. Unless of course, he wants to move back to California.