Poker Player Wins Child Support Case

An unemployed man who makes most of his money from playing poker has won the right not to pay child support.

The Court of Appeals ruled yesterday (28 April 2014) that Tony Hakki has no obligation to pay child support to the mother of his child, as his gambling does not meet the requirements for a business concern.

The mother of the child or children concerned, Devrise Blair, asked the Child Support Agency to force Mr. Hakki to pay, comparing his cardplaying to the career of an athlete. And a tribunal judge had previously stated that the appeal could go ahead, as Mr. Hakki could be considered self-employed.

But Lord Justice Longmore ruled this week that there was not sufficient organisation in his gambling practice to compel him to pay child maintenance.

The judge said, ‘On the facts found, I do not consider that it can be said that Mr Hakki had a sufficient organisation in his poker playing to make it amount to a trade (or a business), let alone a profession or a vocation.’ Appeal judges Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Pitchford agreed with the ruling.

The case highlights the importance of the wording of the law, in this case the Child Support (Maintenance Assessment and Special Cases) Regulations.

Though many laypersons may assume otherwise, one’s obligation to pay child support is not dependent on their total assets but rather their income from work. The obligor (non-custodial parent) may not be compelled to make payments if they have no profession, and therefore, no official income.

The same ruling would presumably be made if Mr. Hakki, or any defendant in a similar case were to win the lottery.

However a judge would no doubt order a defendant to pay who was a practitioner of a recognised profession in which luck was a factor – such as stock brokerage or bookmaking. This demonstrates how unintuitive an interpretation of family law Cardiff can seem to non legal professionals.

Judges said Mr Hakki had played poker for a number of years and was known to other players as Tony ‘The Hitman’ Hakki. They said he had been a financial broker who had been made redundant in 1998 when in his mid-forties.

Mr.Hakki has consistently refused to pay maintenance in the past. No details of his child or children were made public, nor of his relationship with Ms. Blair.

This is the latest development in a child support case that has been going on for over four years.

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