Current California divorce laws will grant spousal support to a husband or wife when there is a significant difference in income. Temporary spousal support can be granted to help during a transition, or if the marriage lasted longer than 10 years permanent spousal support can be established. Currently, one of the exceptions to this rule is if your soon-to-be ex tried to murder you. Victims rights advocates say this does not go far enough. A recent bill ¨C AB1522 ¨C would extend this exception to spouses who are convicted of other violent sexual felonies.
“Victims of violent sex crimes already suffer physical trauma, fear, and an assault on their privacy and dignity,” said Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, who recently introduced the bill. “To require them also to pay their abuser alimony or to give them a share of their pension or household goods is cruel and makes a mockery of the intent behind the laws governing the fair division of assets in a divorce.”
A victim of marital rape, sodomy, and forced oral copulation urged lawmakers to make this change in the divorce and spousal support laws. Crystal Harris was ordered to pay $1,000 a month before her husband Shawn Harris was convicted and sent to state prison for six years. The San Diego Superior Court judge considered the domestic violence when figuring the spousal support and reduced her obligation from $3,000 to $1,000. Crystal had a financial consultant job whereas her husband had been out of work for several years when their 12-year marriage ended. She was also ordered to pay $47,000 of the $100,000 legal fees from the divorce proceedings. Crystal felt victimized again when she was ordered to pay this even though he had committed three serious felonies.
Since Shawn is in prison, he does not receive spousal support but when he gets out, he could currently ask the courts for spousal support unless AB1522 passes. AB1522 would also allow the injured spouse to not pay the legal and attorney fees the convicted spouse owes in any divorce proceedings. This would make a big difference throughout all of California for victims of spousal assault and sex crimes.
Victims should contact a divorce and domestic violence attorney that can promptly and effectively uphold your rights when a situation occurs that harms you or the children. An experienced attorney can be your ally to help with legal and safety concerns in these times of need.