Welcome to the LSIS Investigative Journal

Welcome to the LSIS Investigative Journal

Friday, October 5, 2012

California Limits Spousal Support

California Limits Spousal Support
By Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director,
Fathers and Families

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation introduced by Assembly member Toni Atkins, (D-San Diego) that prevents victims from being forced to pay spousal support to ex-husbands or wives who are convicted of violent crime against them. Assembly Bill 1522 was inspired by the case of a San Diego-area woman, Crystal Harris, who was ordered to pay her former husband monthly spousal support during the pendency of his criminal trial. After he was convicted and sentenced to six years, Harris was ordered to pay a portion of his legal fees.

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis announced the legislation earlier this year and testified before the California Senate Judiciary Committee in support of it. Current California law already prevents spousal support in cases of attempted murder or soliciting the murder of a spouse. AB 1522 adds violent abuse felonies to the list of convictions that disqualify a person from obtaining financial benefits from their ex-spouse in a divorce proceeding.

While Judges in California have had the discretion to deny spousal support or alimony in cases of felony offenses, this new law makes it mandatory in cases where the spousal support would have been paid by the injured party. The language is gender neutral. Fathers and Families hopes the implementation is also gender neutral.

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 56 percent of divorce lawyers across the United States report an increase in mothers paying child support to fathers in the last three year and 47 percent note a rise in the number of women making monthly alimony payments to their ex-husbands. The study did not report on how much of an increase there has been in cases of mothers paying child support or the actual rise in women paying alimony.

Crystal Harris’ case brought national attention to the loophole in the law. “I never want to think of another rape victim having to go through the re-victimization process that I went through,” Harris said.

The bill garnered strong bi-partisan legislative support from Senators Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon; Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego; Juan Vargas, D-San Diego; and Mark Wyland, R-Carlsbad; and Assembly members Marty Block, D- Lemon Grove; Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista; Martin Garrick, R-Carlsbad; Kevin Jeffries, R- Murrieta; Brian Jones, R-Santee; Jeff Miller, R-Orange; and Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City.

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