Beat Your Spouse, Still Get Alimony? Legislators Say ‘No More’
How’s this for adding insult to literal injury? In New Jersey, a spouse, whether it’s the husband or the wife could be forced to pay alimony to their ex even if their former spouse was convicted of abusing them in a domestic violence case.
Almost a dozen Garden State legislators have been working to change the law in order to prevent the awarding of alimony to domestic violence offenders and allow a court to stop alimony based on a conviction for domestic violence.
“Several women came into my office who talked about the fact that they were paying alimony to a former husband that had beaten them, that had physically abused them and I think any member of the public has to recoil from that, right? I mean it’s just wrong. It just shouldn’t happen,” said State Sen. Jennifer Beck (Red Bank).
A bill (S-2353) co-sponsored by Beck would ban a court from awarding alimony to a person convicted of a crime involving domestic violence by the victim of that crime. Also, if a person getting existing alimony payments is later convicted of a crime involving domestic violence against the spouse who is doing the paying, the payments would be terminated.
“You’re not going to have a woman who has been physically abused throughout her marriage or after her marriage pay alimony to her abuser. This really, I think just corrects what is an injustice and puts in place something that makes a lot of sense to pretty much everybody,” Beck said.
An identical version of the measure (A-584) is co-sponsored in the Assembly by Beck’s legislative district mate, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, who talked about a woman who came to her office and told a story that moved the assemblywoman to tears.
“She was a nurse. She spent 25 years married to an alcoholic, addict, physical abuser who also cheated on her and he eventually left her for another woman and the woman was then ordered to pay alimony monthly to this man who had abused her for 25 years and adding insult to injury. When this nurse became permanently disabled and got payments for that she was still ordered to continue paying alimony to someone who had domestically abused her,” Casagrande said.
That is an outrage, a complete miscarriage of justice and the law needs to be changed to address situations like this the assemblywoman said.
New Jersey Women for Alimony Reform (NJ WAR) is a group working to change the state’s alimony laws. Similarly disturbing stories can be found on their Facebook page.
The situation first gained national attention in November of 2011 when Crystal Harris was ordered by a San Diego County Family Court Judge to pay alimony to her abusive ex-husband who was convicted of sexually assaulting her. Even though her ex-husband was sentenced to six years in prison, Harris was originally ordered to pay him $3,000 a month. It was later cut to $1,000 a month while he was awaiting sentencing on the conviction.
ABC’s Nightline reported on Harris’ story in April of 2012: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/victim-ordered-pay-attackers-alimony-16076370