The policy in California is that upon a divorce, the higher earner has an obligation to support the lower earner in the form of spousal support. However, California does recognize some circumstances where that policy is just plain unfair. One of the carved-out exceptions to the law is in cases of domestic violence.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and paying your abusing ex spouse spousal support, perhaps you shouldn’t be. California Family Code Section 4323 states: “In any proceeding for dissolution of marriage where there is a criminal conviction for an act of domestic violence perpetrated by one spouse against the other spouse entered by the court within five years prior to the filing of the dissolution proceeding, or at any time thereafter, there shall be a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of poof that any award of temporary or permanent spousal support to the abusive spouse otherwise awardable pursuant to the standards of this part should not be made.”
A case called Marriage of Cauley comes to mind and is a prime example of how a spouse forfeited her spousal support payments of $5,250.00 per month because she committed and was convicted of domestic violence against her ex husband. In Re Marriage of Cauley (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 1100.
In this case, Husband and Wife entered a stipulated Judgment that Husband would pay Wife $5,250.00 per month for spousal support. Husband and Wife are divorced and Husband is now happily living with his new girlfriend in Florida. Wife flies to Florida, removes items from Husband’s yard, sprayed herbicide on his garden, ripped out his plants, killed his fish, and threw the stolen property she removed into the bay. Sometime in the midst of all of this happening, Husband came outside and Wife sprayed herbicide in his face and then sprayed herbicide in Girlfriend’s face as well. Thankfully, Wife was later arrested for domestic battery and Husband was issued a restraining order against her.
However, despite being arrested and now having a restraining order against her, Wife was not deterred. Instead of obeying the no-contact order, Wife sent Husband’s attorney a letter threatening to accuse Husband of rape if he did not drop the charges of domestic battery against her. Husband, with good reason, did not drop the domestic battery actions, so Wife subsequently told the police that Husband had raped her.
Wait, there’s more! Wife also made more than 1,000 calls and left over 500 messages harassing and threatening Husband, his new wife, family members and even Husband’s employer.
Needless to say, Husband had enough and moved to terminate the spousal support order made pursuant to Family Code Section 4325. Wife argued there was a non-modifiable spousal support agreement, so Husband was prohibited from terminating support. She also argued that she was now a convicted felon who was an alcoholic with no job skills and no training, thus, her job prospects and opportunity to provide for herself were not likely.
The Court was not moved by Wife’s arguments nor her dire situation. The Court found that Family Code Section 4325 applied and the presumption had not been rebutted. The Court ruled that Family Code Section 4325 “embodies a legislative determination that victims of domestic violence not be required to finance their own abuse.”
Apparently, Wife was never taught the proverbial lesson of “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”