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Effort To Change Calif. Divorce Law

Judge Rules Wife Must Pay Ex Despite His Conviction For Assaulting Her

Aired 11/1/11 on KPBS News.

A judge has ruled a wife owes her ex-husband support money and a lump sum in cash payments. Not that unusual. But the husband is in prison, convicted for sexually assaulting the wife. How can this be? Investigative Reporter Mitch Blacher with the 10News I-Team joins us to explain.

JOYCE: A judge has ruled a wife owes her ex-husband support money and a lump sum in cash payments. Not that unusual. But the husband is in prison, convicted for sexually assaulting the wife. How can this be? Investigative Reporter Mitch Blacher with the 10News I-Team joins us to explain.

BLACHER: This woman who lives up in Carlsbad is trying to get the law changed so that the victim of a sexual assault or an assault that's a felony does not have to pay her assailant. And that's all she's trying to do. Her husband assaulted her sexually. That was enough to convict him of one felony, so he is in prison currently. Now that was a completely separate issue from her divorce. She's also in court on divorce proceedings on him, and she is the breadwinner by a lot. He was unemployed, she was making a six figure salary. And so the judge, taking everything into account, was completely within California law when he awarded her husband, a man named Shawn Harris, about one thousand dollars a month out of her pocket.

JOYCE: So as the law stands now, despite the fact that he was convicted for this crime against her - despite that, even though you're convicted of a crime against your wife, a wife can still owe you financial support later?

BLACHER: If somebody is victimized by their husband or their wife, as long as that spouse didn't try to kill them, the state of California allows the victim to be forced to pay the perpetrator.

JOYCE: Is she getting support of any law enforcement agencies, district attorneys?

BLACHER: She is. Our district attorney, Bonnie Dumanis, is in the process of trying to change this - to get legislators to change the law so that any kind of violent assault precludes a spouse from getting any kind of support or any kind of money form the person they assaulted.

JOYCE: Reporter Mitch Blacher with 10News I-Team, telling us about a Carlsbad woman - required to pay support to her ex-husband, even though he was convicted of sexually assaulting her and is serving time in prison for it.

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