Spousal Support and Domestic Violence: What Happens When the Dependent Spouse Is the Abuser?
Therefore, this Note proposes that New York and other states enact legislation similar to that of the California Family Code, which enacted statutes that prevent someone from obtaining spousal support if they attempted to murder their spouse, committed a violent sexual felony against their spouse, or were convicted of a domestic violence offense against their spouse. The reformed legislation would prohibit judges from awarding spousal support to individuals convicted of attempting to murder their spouse, and would require courts to look carefully at the facts surrounding each case where a spouse has been indicted or convicted of a violent sexual felony against their partner. Moreover, this legislation would allow judges to retain discretion in awarding spousal support in cases where an individual has been convicted of a lesser domestic violence crime or offense against their spouse. Such reforms will fine tune current court proceedings regarding the award of spousal maintenance in New York and other states. These reforms will eliminate the current social and moral injustice of forcing victims to continue to finance their abusers.
Part II of this Note briefly defines domestic violence, discusses how domestic violence is different when the victim is financially independent, and explores why financially independent battered victims do not leave abusive relationships. Part II will also share a brief history of spousal support and its purpose and give an overview of current New York legislation regarding the award of spousal support. In Part III, this Note will analyze the California legislation on spousal support and domestic violence, examine why these laws were enacted, analyze cases that interpret these laws, and discuss how the California legislation has largely been successful. Part III will also discuss theoretical problems that may arise with the passage of such legislation. Part IV will propose that New York and other states enact legislation similar to that of California’s. Part V will conclude this Note.