Fault in a No Fault State

H and W married in 1986 and had three children, Son 1 (S1), Daughter (D) and Son 2 (S2). W has not worked since 1990, when she gave birth to D.

Between 1995 and 2001, H worked in Algeria. He would spend four weeks there at a time, then return home and spend four weeks with his family.

During this time, S1 became friends with F, and W became sexually attracted to F.

On weekends, and while H was in Algeria, W would host parties for her children and their friends (including F) providing them all with alcohol. The children often became drunk to the point of vomiting. W also showed pornographic movies to S1 and his friends, and would show pornographic movies to F when she and he were alone. S1 began having sex with underage girls.

W began having oral sex with F when he was 12 years, progressing to intercourse, and continued until F was in college. F tried many times to end the relationship, but W threatened to tell his friends and family.

Although S1, D, and S2 suspected F and W’s relationship, they did not actually know about it. W was also concerned that there were rumors about their relationship, and demanded that D give her access to D’s social media account. When D refused, W had S1 hold her down, while chopped off D’s hair. Because of the home situation, D became depressed and began cutting herself. She asked W if she could see a counselor, but W would not let her. D believed it was her mother’s way of saying “Don’t talk about what goes on at home.”

In time, F and W’s relationship was discovered, and W was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and sentenced to seven years in prison.

H and W’s marriage ended and he began paying W temporary spousal support until the divorce was final. He requested he not be obligated to pay her spousal support because of her bad behavior during the marriage. The trial court agreed with H, terminated the marriage and denied W spousal support because of her behavior. W appealed.

W contended the trial court was wrong because California is a no-fault state, and bad behavior by one party cannot be used as a means of preventing spousal support.

The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court: Although normally the awarding of spousal support is based solely on whether one spouse needs it and the other spouse is able to pay it, there are exceptions to that law. One exception is in the case of domestic violence against the children of one of the parties. W’s providing of alcohol to her children until they vomited and cutting her daughter’s hair constituted violence, and the trial court was correct in not awarding spousal support to W.

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