Hunter Biden is nearing judgment day in an Arkansas lawsuit to reduce his child support and prevent his daughter from taking his last name.
The president's son faces a deposition this month and a July trial against a woman, Lunden Roberts, who had his daughter Aug. 28, 2018. Biden was ordered in March 2020 to pay child support, but he asked in September 2022 to reduce the amount because of his changing income, which led to the pending trial.
Another point of contention deals with the child’s name. Roberts wants the child to have Biden’s last name because of the family's political prominence and business success, but he is opposed because of the "political warfare" she could face.
The case is just one of the legal challenges facing Hunter Biden, who has become a lightning rod for congressional Republicans investigating how he might influence President Joe Biden. House Republicans are probing whether Hunter Biden was rewarded for influencing the administration through lucrative business deals or art sales, allegations he and the White House have denied.
Here is what we know about the case:
What is disputed in Hunter Biden's paternity case?
Roberts filed the case in May 2019 seeking to determine Biden's paternity and obtain child support. Biden initially resisted, but his paternity was established in January 2020. An agreement for child support was reached under a “final” order in March 2020, retroactive to November 2018.
But Biden revived the case by asking to reduce the amount of child support he was paying. His lawyer, Brent Langdon, cited “a substantial material change” in his financial circumstances.
During a May hearing, lawyer Abbe Lowell revealed Biden is paying $20,000 per month in child support for a total of $750,000.
Roberts’ lawyers, Clinton Lancaster and Jennifer Lancaster, opposed the move, citing business deals in Ukraine and China, and art sales House Republicans are investigating. The lawyers noted that Biden paying multiple lawyers, including Lowell for $855 per hour and others who represent "the Hollywood elite," to represent him in congressional inquiries and now the paternity case.
“However, voluntarily reducing income, or hiding assets, is not a basis for a reduction in support,” Clinton Lancaster wrote.
Independence County Circuit Judge Holly Meyer set dates June 13 to 16 for Hunter Biden and others to provide depositions in the case before the anticipated July trial.
What's in a name?
After Biden filed to reopen the discussion of child support, Roberts filed her motion in December seeking to change the last name of the child, whose initials are NJR, to Biden.
Her lawyers said the girl deserved the Biden name because the name “is now synonymous with being well educated, successful, financially acute and politically powerful.” Hunter Biden is “a wildly successful businessman,” a “powerful lobbyist” and “apparently, a famous artist,” according to the filing. The girl’s grandparents are the president and first lady.
But Biden opposed the change, with his lawyer arguing Roberts was pursuing “political warfare against the Defendant and his family.” Langdon said Roberts disparaged the Biden family in other filings and “the notoriety would no doubt rob the child of peaceful existence.”
Biden and Roberts have clashed in recent months over expert witnesses and exchanges of evidence in the case.
One of the mother’s experts, Garrett Ziegler, repeatedly discusses Hunter Biden on television. He produced a 644-page report on Hunter Biden’s laptop, which became a focus of Republican congressional investigations about his finances. His nonprofit, Marco Polo, has parked a truck with the message "BidenCrimes.info" outside the White House, Justice Department and Congress.
Biden's lawyers tried to prevent Ziegler from being an expert witness, but the court allowed him.
One of Biden’s lawyers, Kevin Morris, sued Ziegler and Marco Polo in California Superior Court alleging harassment and invasion of privacy for exposing his contact information, posting pictures of his relatives and addresses of properties he owns.
Ziegler and Marco Polo have denied the allegations and argued that the public interest outweighs any of Morris' privacy concerns.
Lowell wrote the Internal Revenue Service challenging the nonprofit status of Marco Polo for engaging in political activity.
The White House and congressional Democrats have questioned the legitimacy of some information purported to be from the laptop and called the inquiries hyper-partisan. Ian Sams, a White House spokesman has called the GOP inquiries "politically-motivated stunts."
The case has dragged on as the first judge, Circuit Judge Don McSpadden, had warned the participants against.
The early part of the case, before paternity and child support were settled, was postponed for months. By March 2020, Judge Meyer rejected a Biden request to postpone the case until after the 2020 election as “excessive” because “interest in his person will continue.”
After the revival of the case, the deposition could be an opportunity for Roberts’ lawyers to ask Biden about his income from overseas business ventures and about the sale of his art listed for as much as $500,000.
The mother’s lawyers have accused Hunter Biden of “playing discovery goose chases” by not cooperating before the trial.
“Biden does not want to disclose his income and assets, says that he is somewhat financially destitute, while he lives on a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, has Secret Service protection, and enjoys his time abroad,” a May filing said.
Roberts’ lawyers asked in January 2020 for the second time to hold Biden in contempt – which didn’t happen – for failing to provide his addresses for him and his wife, phone numbers for both, documentation of his income and any corporate ownership.
But Hunter Biden’s lawyers said he has provided 2,279 pages of financial documents and an affidavit of financial means. His lawyers said Biden "has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with Defendant in an effort to avoid court action."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hunter Biden paternity case: Fight hinges on money owed, family name