Celtic star Neil Lennon faces court battle over child support dispute

Former Celtic boss Neil Lennon has been accused of not paying £43,000 in child support for the daughter he forced to have DNA test to confirm he was her father.

He's locked in a court battle with ex-girlfriend Jeniffer Jonsen - mum to the now 17-year-old girl - over claims he failed to raise his monthly payments in line with inflation.

The former football ace turned pundit, who had agreed to pay £1500 a month in 2011, was served with an order to pay the money by sheriff’s officers who had turned up at his home in September 2022.

Jeniffer Johnson and former Celtic manager Neil Lennon. -Credit:Phil Dye.
Jeniffer Johnson and former Celtic manager Neil Lennon. -Credit:Phil Dye.

But Jonsen claims the payments never went up as agreed and he now owes £43,222. Lennon, 52, has taken a civil case against his ex over the payments dispute which landed in court last week.

Lennon dated Jonsen for five years and she became pregnant in 2005 but the couple split before she gave birth.

The ex Celtic captain, who earned a reported £2.4m during his two-year stint managing the Parkhead side, had a son with long term partner Irene McCloy in December 2005 while Jonsen’s daughter was born six months later in June 2006.

In 2007, Jonsen, a singer, took intial action against Lennon to force him to pay child support for the girl whom he previously questioned was his until a DNA test confirmed his paternity.

At Paisley Sheriff Court last Wednesday, Lennon's legal team argued he was being asked to pay too much.

His lawyer, KC Marie Clark, told the court that the original agreement, called a decree, made between Jonsen and Lennon in September 2011 was "flawed" and had "no basis in law".

She said the document stated Lennon agreed to pay Jonsen, 47, £1500 per month, rising in line with inflation to support their daughter.

But she explained the details of the decree contained dates that appeared to be wrong and did not state if the increase was annual or monthly.

Clark said she believed the charges being made against Lennon were also wrong due to the discrepancies in the original document.

She said: "The genesis of this calculator is fundamentally flawed. It has no basis in fact or indeed in law. The pursuer cannot understand what he ought to pay. It's my submission that the charge is fundamentally flawed."

Clark also referenced a statement from Jonsen, who she said had referred to the charge as being "too high". She said: "The defender cannot overcome that admission. She doesn't just say the sum is wrong - she says it is too high. That admission is unambiguous."

KC Rosemary Guinnane, representing Jonsen, argued that the original agreement had been clear and Lennon was in arrears for child support.

She said Lennon's lawyer was looking to "attack" the original agreement and said: "The child at the heart of these proceedings is prejudiced by the failure to pay interest on the sums narrated on the decree. That can be without doubt."

She acknowledged there were "typos" in the original document but added that in some years Lennon had paid more than the £1500 per month indicating he understood that his payments would rise in line with inflation.

Guinnane said that for the whole of 2016 and 2017, Lennon had paid Jonsen £1800 a month. She said: "The payments schedule states that the monthly payment for 2016 is £1751 and for 2017 is £1822.

"He's not paying £1800 because he's been generous. He's paying £1800 because if you look at what we say he was to pay in 2016 and 2017 it's a figure between that. As in all alimentary cases involving children, an agreement was to be paid each month.

"The intention clearly was that those payments would not be stale and stick at 2011, they would increase each year, because aliment of £1500 in 2011 is not the same as what it would be worth in 2024."

Jonsen's lawyer also confirmed a counter-claim submitted by her client had now been dropped but said she wanted the sheriff to grant a hearing to allow the errors in the original agreement to be resolved.

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Sheriff Ward said he may be more likely to grant such a hearing if "he wasn’t paying anything, but he is". A written decision is to be issued on the case.

Neither Lennon or Jonsen were present in court. Lennon was said to have been paid hundreds of thousands to leave his Celtic job in 2021 and has been a football pundit on the BBC, Sky News and other outlets since.

He owns a luxury flat in Glasgow's west end, valued at close to £1m now after he bought it in 2001 for £400,000. The Lurgan-born ex footballer has a third child, a daughter now in her 30s.