SAN DIEGO -- A bill that would prevent victims from being forced to pay alimony to ex-spouses convicted of violent sexual crimes against them received a vote of support Tuesday from the State Senate's Judiciary Committee following testimony from San Diego County's district attorney and others.
Assembly Bill 1522, introduced by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, was inspired by the case of Crystal Harris of Carlsbad, who was ordered to pay her former husband monthly spousal support even after he was charged with sexually assaulting her.
After he was convicted of forced oral copulation and sentenced to six years in prison, Harris, a financial analyst, was ordered to pay a portion of his legal fees. She also was ordered to pay some of the attorney fees Shawn Harris incurred during their divorce and agreed in a settlement to pay $47,000 of his approximately $100,000 in divorce-related legal fees.
"Victims should not be required to pay their convicted rapist spousal support,'' District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis told the committee. "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.''
Harris, 39, also testified before the Judiciary Committee in support of the bill.
"I never want to think of another rape victim having to go through the re-victimization process that I went through,'' Harris said. "I urge all people devoted to justice to make sure this bill passes.''
Current law already prevents spousal support in cases of attempted murder or the solicitation of the murder of a spouse. AB 1522 would add violent sex felonies to the list of convictions that disqualify a person from obtaining financial benefits from an ex-spouse in a divorce proceeding.
AB 1522 passed the California Assembly by a unanimous vote in April. Following today's vote, the bill -- which has garnered strong bipartisan support -- now goes to the Senate floor.