The unfortunate truth is that divorces can cause pain and stress for everyone involved. These include cases of alleged domestic violence. In a recent case, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals was called on to explain an important point in California divorce matters that some folks might assume goes without saying. If you try to cut off your estranged husband’s penis, you probably won’t be able to get a court to later order him to pay you spousal support.
Husband and Wife separated in August 2011, following nearly 32 years of marriage. Four months later, Wife was charged with assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly trying to use a knife to cut off Husband’s penis. A court issued a protective order forcing Wife to stay away from Husband, and she later pleaded guilty to the felony assault charge. Wife was convicted and sentenced to three years of probation.
Wife then asked a separate court hearing the divorce case to order Husband to pay her temporary spousal support. The court declined, finding that Wife wasn’t entitled to the support because she had committed an act of domestic violence. Section 4325 of the California Family Code establishes a rebuttable presumption that a spouse convicted of domestic violence within five years of filing for divorce – or at any time thereafter – isn’t entitled to spousal support. In this case, the trial court pointed to Wife’s conviction as disqualifying her from seeking support.
The Fourth District agreed on appeal. Although assault with a deadly weapon isn’t automatically a domestic violence offense, the Court said Wife was clearly convicted for committing an act of domestic violence. “Domestic violence means abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship,” the Court explained, citing the state Penal Code.
The Court also said the trial judge didn’t abuse his discretion in finding that Wife failed to rebut the presumption that she wasn’t entitled to spousal support. Wife explained that she was 73 years old at the time, unemployed, and unlikely to be able to find work after losing her job as a nurse because of her assault conviction. But the Fourth District said Husband should not be required to subsidize Wife for costs resulting from her conviction. “[T]he trial court clearly did not exceed the bounds of reason by finding [Wife]’s circumstances insufficient to outweigh the public policy underlying the presumption,” the Fourth District concluded.
If you’re considering divorce or are grappling with domestic violence, spousal support, and other related issues in California, contact San Jose spousal support 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 a wide variety of marital disputes. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
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