Loophole Allows Spousal Rapists to Collect Alimony

Friday, July 06, 2012


The story of a woman who was told by a judge that she will have to pay alimony to the spouse who raped her—once he finishes serving time for his crime—has caught the attention of the California Legislature.

AB 1542, which would prevent victims from being forced to pay support to ex-spouses who have been convicted of a violent sexual crime against them, was unanimously approved by the Assembly and cleared its first Senate hurdle Tuesday in the Judiciary Committee. The law currently only disqualifies those convicted of attempted murder or soliciting the murder of a spouse from spousal support.

The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins in January, grew out of the case of Crystal Harris of Carlsbad, who surreptitiously taped her husband brutally accosting her despite repeated pleas to stop and then had him arrested. Her husband, Shawn Harris, claimed they were role playing, but the tape of her saying “no” 50 times proved more convincing. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

She divorced him but was told by the family court judge that she would have to pay substantial alimony because her income was so much higher than his.

“I can't look at a 12-year marriage where one side is making $400 a month, the other side is making over $11,000 and say no spousal support,” Judge Gregory Pollack told Harris in court. “That would be an abuse of discretion.”  Harris, a financial analyst, was ordered to pay part of her ex-husband’s legal expenses and agreed in a settlement to pay $47,000 of his approximately $100,000 in divorce-related legal fees.

In testimony before the Judiciary Committee, San Diego District Attorney (and mayoral candidate) Bonnie Dumanis said, “Victims should not be required to pay their convicted rapist spousal support. Yet, under the current Family Code statutes this can, and did happen. We are here today urging you to change the law and help us right this wrong.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

District Attorney Sponsored Spousal Support Bill Clears Senate Committee (San Diego County News)

Dumanis Testifies for Bill Protecting Domestic Violence Victims from Paying Alimony (City News Service)

Sexual Assault Victim Must Pay Her Attacker Spousal Support (by Seth McKelvey, Reason)

Is Judge Gregory Pollack Striking Back at Crystal Harris? (by Bonnie Russell, Examiner.com)

Woman Mind-Bogglingly Ordered to Pay Spousal Support to Convicted Rapist (by Anna North, Jezebel)

Assembly Bill 1522 (California Legislative Information)

Leave a comment