Judges are human. Sometimes they get cases wrong. That’s why the legal system provides litigants the opportunity to appeal a decision with which they don’t agree. California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently considered a divorce case in which a spouse who wasn’t happy with the trial judge’s ruling took a different tack. She accused the judge of sex discrimination.
Husband filed for divorce from Wife in the spring of 2010, and the parties later agreed to an arrangement in which he would pay her more than $2,000 a month in spousal support. That amount was later reduced, and the support was made temporary after Husband lost his job. Shortly after the original agreement, Wife sought a domestic violence protection order, alleging that Husband had abused her verbally and psychologically. She asked for a restraining order to force him out of the home where the couple was still living.
Among other abuse, she claimed that she was forced to watch as Husband abused the couple’s eldest son for a number of years. As the litigation continued, she also alleged that Husband had forced her to have sex with him a number of times and described a specific dispute over laundry in which he allegedly verbally abused her.
Husband painted a different picture. He and Son filed declarations opposing the restraining order. Son, who was no longer living at the couple’s home but said he visited several times per week, contradicted Wife’s claims. “My father has never been violent with my mother, or threatened her in any way whatsoever,” Son said in the declaration.
Although a court commissioner initially granted the restraining order, a trial judge later said there was no support for the commissioner’s finding that Husband had abused Wife. The judge nevertheless left the restraining order in place but said he would not give any weight to Wife’s abuse allegations in determining how much spousal support Husband should be ordered to pay. He eventually set the monthly spousal support award at $700.
Appealing the decision, Wife argued that the trial judge’s decision was colored by a bias against her because she’s a woman and because he “did not like the claim of marital rape.” The Fourth District disagreed. “[T]he record provides no support for Wife’s contention that [the trial judge] gave the appearance of gender bias,” the Court said. “To the contrary, the record reflects [the judge] acted fairly and without bias to both parties.” The Court found that the judge’s decision was properly based on Husband’s ability to pay support.
While the discrimination claim in this case is unusual, the dispute over spousal support is not. If you’re considering seeking a divorce in California, contact San Jose divorce lawyer John S. Yohanan. With more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Yohanan is an accomplished family law attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve spousal support and other issues on optimal terms. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
Related blog posts: