January 21, 2012 (Sacramento) Assemblymember Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) has introduced legislation to prevent abusive ex-spouses from forcing their victims to pay them spousal support and other financial compensation following a divorce. AB 1522 was inspired by the case of a San Diego area woman who was ordered by a court to pay her husband's legal fees plus monthly spousal support, despite the fact that he was convicted of committing violent sex crimes against her and was ultimately sent to prison.
"The current law allowing rapists to demand payment from their spouses in a divorce is unjust," says Atkins. "Victims of violent sex crimes already suffer physical trauma, fear, and an assault on their privacy and dignity. 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."
Current law already prevents spousal support in cases of the attempted murder or soliciting the murder of a spouse. AB 1522 would add violent sex felonies to the list of convictions that disqualify a person from obtaining financial benefits from their ex-spouse in a divorce proceeding.
AB 1522 is sponsored by San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "The District Attorney's Office is in strong support of this bill and we're working hard to change the law that allowed Crystal Harris to be re-victimized. We need to make sure this can't happen again to victims of violent crime," says Dumanis.
Crystal Harris, the woman whose case brought attention to the loophole in the law, also supports Atkins' bill, saying "I never want to think of another rape victim having to go through the re-victimization process that I went through. I urge all people devoted to justice to make sure this bill passes. "
The bill is already garnering strong bi-partisan legislative support, with Senators Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon), Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad) and Assemblymembers 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) signing on as co-authors before the bill was formally introduced.