Garrett Harris 4 p.m., Jan. 16
Bill to Protect Rape Victims Moves Forward
Legislation authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins (pictured), and co-sponsored by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, to amend a portion of the state’s family law code has gained the Assembly Judiciary committee’s approval.
The bill, which passed yesterday with a 7 to 1 vote, will amend state legislation so that an individual convicted of a violent sexual felony against his or her spouse forfeits all rights to spousal support, attorney’s fees, and his or her community property interest in the injured spouse’s retirement, pension, and insurance benefits.
A 2008 case involving a San Diego woman was the impetus for the bill. Her husband, who is currently serving a six-year prison sentence, violently sexually assaulted her.
During the subsequent divorce proceedings, because she was the primary income-earner, making over $11,000 a month, while her husband, mostly unemployed, made roughly $400 a month, she was ordered to pay $1,000 per month in spousal support and $47,000 in attorney’s fees.
The judge stayed the award while the husband remains in prison, but noted that he took the income disparity as well as the 12-year duration of the marriage into consideration.
Supporters of the bill, which include Senator Christine Kehoe, the San Diego Board of Supervisors, and law enforcement and victims groups, all claim the bill will prevent victims from being re-victimized by being forced to provide financial support to their abusers.
The Association of Certified Family Law opposed the bill because they feel that the family courts are not a place to decide such matters.
They argue that if for example, one spouse agrees to plead guilty to such charges early on in the marriage, but then the couple reconciles and spends many years together before divorcing, the guilty spouse would be forfeiting rights early on, that he or she is entitled to under current state law.
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