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Some loopholes don’t favor abuse victims in family law cases

It may seem totally backwards that a victim of domestic violence be forced to pay spousal support to their abusive spouse. In some states, due to family law loopholes and rules regarding what judges are allowed to decide, it can happen.

One woman says her abusive husband forced her to have sex with him toward the end of their rocky marriage. He was ultimately convicted of forced oral copulation for the 2008 sexual assault. However, when their divorce was finalized in 2010, a judge ordered her to pay her ex-spouse $1,000 per month in spousal support. She was also apparently ordered to pay $47,000 of his legal fees.

Many are asking, “How can this be?” The woman, who makes more than $110,000 per year as a financial analyst, has appealed the judge’s ruling. One of her main arguments is that her ex-husband should have no expenses while he’s in jail. A judge apparently agrees with her, but the man will be eligible to ask for more support upon his release in 2014.

The woman’s ex-husband was apparently convicted largely due to evidence his ex-wife herself provided: an audiotape of the sexual assault. Because of threats he had made, she hid a tape recorder in her underwear drawer. He was initially faced with charges of spousal rape by force and sodomy, but those resulted in a hung jury, according to ABC News.

A district attorney in California is one advocate aiming to change spousal support exceptions. As it is in that state now, people convicted of attempted murder are not eligible to receive spousal support. Some are hoping that wording can be changed to “violent felony” to avoid this kind of situation.

Source: ABC News, “Victim ordered to pay attacker spousal support,” Christina Caron, Nov. 4, 2011

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