Levi Johnston: Playgirl centerfold, deadbeat dad?

Bristol Palin goes to court to claim thousands she says her ex owes in child support

By Judy Berman
Published January 22, 2010 5:23PM (EST)

Levi Johnston's been just about everywhere in the 13 months since his son, Tripp, was born: He's shit-talked the Palin family to any and all media outlets, found his fame-whore soul mate in Kathy Griffin and attained gay icon status (not to mention a spot on Salon's "Sexiest Man Living" countdown) by posing for Playgirl. But there's one thing Johnston hasn't done this year, according to his ex, Bristol: paid his fair share of child support.

TMZ reports Palin filed court documents Thursday afternoon claiming that Tripp's dad owes a whopping $1750 a month in child support. (If you have the patience and curiosity to wade through 9 pages of sloppily-scanned legalese, TMZ has kindly posted a PDF of the papers.) How did her lawyers arrive at that number? It seems that in Alaska, non-custodial parents are required to pay 20 percent of their yearly income, up to $105,000, for the care of their child. And Bristol's people have reason to believe that Johnston did indeed earn in the six-figure range "through various interviews and modeling related activities." Palin says she's only received $4400 from Johnston since Tripp's birth.

Of course, Team Levi has its own version of the story: Johnston's delightfully named manager, Tank Jones, says his boss has paid over $10,000 in child support and protests that Levi, bless his charitable soul, "does not make money off of every interview he does."

This latest battle can only complicate the Palin-Johnston custody war. And I don't envy the judge who's faced with the estimable task of deciding which of these two impeccably reliable narrators is telling the truth. Meanwhile, in the midst of Bristol and Levi's tabloid-ready he-said-she-said, it's easy to forget that the focus of this mess is a real, live one-year-old who has pretty much already lost, no matter the outcome.

Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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