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October 1, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Yesterday’s post suggested that we might want to refigure our laws on no-fault divorce.  That’s because the fact that evidence of fault is irrelevant tends to encourage bad behavior.  After all, if the court by law cannot consider how a party has conducted him/herself, what’s to prevent the worst forms of behavior?  Of course the rule doesn’t apply to a parent’s behavior toward a child, but elsewhere, it does.  

So yesterday’s post pointed out that a British man’s ex-wife’s efforts to steal all the funds from his disability compensation may well simply have no bearing on whether she manages to get what little remains.  Yes, she lied, cheated and stole, but what difference does that make when she’s claiming part of the marital estate that was always meant to sustain him through a life of total disability?  The answer is, “None that I can see.”

And so it is here (Noozhawk, 9/29/15).

In this case, a Santa Barbara, California woman was sentenced to six years in prison for raping a minor boy some 500 times over a period of several years, starting from when he was 13.  She apparently served about three years of her sentence and is now out of prison.  She was ordered to register as a sex offender, but has so far refused to do so.  

For obvious reasons, her husband divorced her, but despite her criminal behavior, she was awarded $1 million as her share of the marital estate.  Now she wants him to pay her an additional $7,000 per month as spousal maintenance.  

A Santa Barbara woman who admitted sexual misconduct with her son’s teenage friend has served her prison sentence and is now petitioning the court for more than $7,000 a month in spousal support.

Genise Schu was sentenced to six years in prison after her 2010 conviction on seven felony counts of unlawful intercourse with a minor under 16 years of age, and three felony counts of oral copulation with a minor under 18 years of age.

The victim was friends with Schu’s children and regularly slept over at the Schu residence. Schu began having sex with the boy when he was 13, and the encounters continued over the next eight years, from 2001 to 2009.

Schu has subsequently changed her last name to Gomez.

[The husband’s attorney, Ralph] Wegis’ brief argues that the woman should not receive spousal support because of her abuse, and states that receiving financial support could enable her to abuse again.

The brief states that Gomez engaged in hundreds of instances of felonious sexual abuse, involving oral sex and sexual intercourse with a minor, her son’s best friend.

Wegis said the minor victim was subject to more than 500 instances of felonious sexual conduct, and that activity took place almost every weekend during the nine-year period.

“She fostered this abuse by providing alcohol and pornography to her minor children and their friends,” the brief states. “In an effort to conceal and continue her child molesting, she engaged in domestic violence against her husband and children.”

The brief also details emotional abuse suffered by Schu’s children, particularly her daughter, who was too afraid for her own safety to disclose the abuse.

In case that’s not outrageous enough, there’s more.

“(Gomez) has said, ‘I want the economic lifestyle I had during the time that I was committing these crimes against my own children and children in the community,’” Wegis told Noozhawk on Friday.

That of course is what spousal support is designed to accomplish.  For reasons too obscure for me to understand, when a person elects to divorce his/her spouse and embark on a life apart from that person, the law considers it inappropriate for the person’s lifestyle to change.  The higher-earning spouse is required to continue supporting the person who can’t be bothered to remain married.  The law makes little sense, but it’s still the law.

But Gomez’s wrongdoing goes on and on.

Part of Gomez’s sentencing required her to be registered as a sex offender for six years, but Wegis noted that she is not listed on the Megan’s Law website.

Indeed, a search of the database of her name with surnames Gomez and Schu yields no results.

So the whole “complying with the law” thing is something Gomez does or doesn’t do pretty much as it suits her.  The law entitles her to alimony, so she seeks it.  The law requires her to register as a sex offender, but she doesn’t.

And it’s not as if she doesn’t have enough money from her ex already.

Gomez has already received a $1 million divorce settlement from her former husband, Wegis said.

Again, the specter of no-fault divorce rears its ugly head.  Gomez destroyed her marriage by having felonious sex with a minor boy and terrorizing her own children in order to cover up her crimes.  But none of that mattered to the family court in dividing the marital estate because evidence of fault is irrelevant in divorce cases.

(As an aside, did the boy who is Gomez’s victim receive any of that $1 million?  After all, she committed numerous torts against him, so a lawsuit by him against her would certainly net him some of her rather impressive net worth.  But if that happened, the article doesn’t say.)

Now, if the article linked to accurately describes Wegis’ argument to the court regarding Gomez’s bid for alimony, I don’t see anything that would compel a judge to deny her motion.  But the article may not do so.  There just may be grounds for denial of spousal support in this case.  That’s because, California law establishes one narrow exception to a grant of alimony, and it’s based on fault.

One of the factors to be considered by a court in an alimony case is whether there has ever been domestic violence “between the parties.”  And it seems that she committed DV against her husband who of course is one of “the parties.”  So on that narrow exception, he may be able to avoid paying his ex the monthly $7k she’s demanding.

On the other hand, should he not be able to prove her DV against him, her multiple felonies may make her even more successful in her claim for alimony.  That’s because many of the factors to be considered by the court involve the movant’s ability to earn income for herself.  And multiple felonies on one’s record hardly improve one’s job opportunities.

But what if Gomez hadn’t committed domestic violence?  What if her “only” infractions were the multiple felonies against the victim?  To me it looks like she’d be home free.  As far as I can tell, there’d be nothing in California law to prevent her from cashing in.

So why is DV against a spouse an exception to the rule favoring payment of alimony, but no other form of fault is?  Why does throwing a plate at her husband lose a woman alimony, but being a serial rapist does not?  

As I said yesterday, ignoring fault only encourages bad behavior.  The law is supposed to do the opposite.

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