Tigers’ Cabrera back in court in child-support case

Lynn Henning

Orlando, Fla. — Dressed in a light gray suit and surrounded by lawyers, Miguel Cabrera slipped quickly Monday through a back door leading into Courtroom 16C at the Orange County Courthouse.

He was minutes from a 1:30 p.m. hearing before Judge Alan S. Apte of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court. Down the hall, in a waiting room adjoining the courtroom, sat Belkis Mariela Rodriguez, 35, who is seeking from Cabrera support in excess of the $12,000 per month Cabrera has, at least for a period of time, paid her and her two young sons, whom birth certificates say Cabrera fathered.

Rodriguez says those payments were abruptly and unilaterally reduced last year.

Cabrera, 34, is contesting Rodriguez’s quest for more compensation, which she and her attorney, Terry Young, say should more closely provide for two sons on the level of life enjoyed by three children Cabrera has by his wife, Rosangel.

More: Read documents in Miguel Cabrera paternity suit

None of the parties was speaking Monday. Attorneys for each side said there would be no comment before, or after, the temporary-relief hearing, which was closed to the public and to media.

Neither were the attorneys sure there would be any resolution Monday. Nor, necessarily, any wrap-up to testimony during the afternoon’s briefings.

There was no interaction between Cabrera and Rodriguez ahead of entering Courtroom 16C. Dressed in a black skirt, black blouse, and red shoes, Rodriguez sat with her counsel before departing through a main courtroom door as the 1:30 session approached.

The two boys, ages 4 and 2, and their mother, moved last year into a $1 million home on an Orlando-area golf course that Cabrera is acknowledged to have helped Rodriguez purchase.

But the two parties have been dueling since last August when Rodriguez filed her lawsuit against Cabrera. Mediation efforts the past four months have produced no agreement, leading to Monday’s hearing before Apte.

Rodriguez’s attorneys have been seeking deeply detailed financial data from Cabrera, who stands to make nearly $300 million from the Tigers by the time his contract expires, perhaps as late as 2023. Florida law says parents making $10,000 or more per year must pay 7.5 percent in child support, which, if rigidly applied, could extract more than $2 million per year from Cabrera’s paychecks.

Cabrera’s counsel has been pushing hard, as well, for an accurate account of Rodriguez’s financials and lifestyle. Rodriguez’s lawyers say she is a florist with monthly income of about $2,000.

Last year’s legal tumult occurred as Cabrera, bothered by disk issues in his back, had an astonishingly weak year by the standards of a player who is expected to easily earn a Hall of Fame plaque. Cabrera in 2017 batted .249, with 16 home runs, and a paltry .728 OPS. His career batting average is .317, his 15-year OPS is .948. In 10 of his previous 15 big-league seasons, he hit at least 30 home runs.

He was also dealing last season with divorce papers filed by his wife in March. She later in the year withdrew the divorce petition and the couple reportedly has reconciled.

Cabrera’s 10th year in a Detroit uniform begins officially next week when position players report for spring camp in Lakeland, Fla. Pitchers and catchers begin their workouts Tuesday at the team’s TigerTown complex.