Last month, the California legislature took the first step in passing a law that would forbid family court judges in the state from awarding spousal support to men and women who have committed domestic violence against their spouses in the form of violent sexual assault. The bill is in response to a case in which a woman was ordered to pay support to her husband despite the fact that he had been convicted of sexually assaulting her, a crime for which he was sentenced to six years in jail.

If the bill passes, it will effectively amend a current state law that forbids people who have been convicted of domestic abuse, not including sexual assault, from receiving alimony. In a recent editorial in a local California newspaper, however, one author states that the amendment is not necessary. A close reading of relevant California laws, he says, shows that sexual assault is included under the domestic violence umbrella.

Specifically, the author cites several sections of the California Family Code which states the presumption against awarding spousal support to spouses who have been convicted of domestic violence. The code defines domestic violence as abuse perpetrated against a spouse or former spouse, and includes sexual assault as one form of abuse under the law.

Further, the author says, several appellate courts have upheld lower courts' decisions not to award support under the current family code. This means that the recent court ruling was incorrect, and that the state legislature does not need to amend the relevant law.

Regardless, given the outcome of that case, it does not seem like a bad idea to simply pass the law and make abusers' spousal support eligibility (or lack thereof) even clearer. What do you think?

Source: North County Times, "FORUM: Judge erred in ordering that woman support her attacker," Donald Park, July 15, 2012