Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Spousal Support May Be Denied Based on Fault—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district held yesterday that that a court was justified in denying spousal support to a woman who, over a period of years, had sex with a minor and mistreated her own children.
“California’s so called ‘No Fault Divorce’ law does not require a court to ignore evidence of fault when deciding spousal support,” Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of Div. Six wrote. “This is especially the case when the spouse seeking support is guilty of domestic violence.”
The decision upholds the decision of Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Colleen K. Stern to deny spousal support to Genise Gomez, who repeatedly had sex with a boy designated in the opinion as “S.” The episodes began when the boy was 12 and continued until he went off to college.
S. was her son’s best friend and S.’s sister was the best friend of Gomez’s daughter. Gilbert said Gomez “created a sexual atmosphere in her home” by showing her son and his friends pornographic movies and supplying them with copious amounts of alcohol.
At one point, Gomez was apprehensive that her relationship with S. would be alluded to on social media and demanded that her daughter provide a social media password belonging to S’s sister. When she refused, Gomez cut a large chunk out of her hair.
Gomez received a six-year prison sentence after pleading no contest to seven counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
Gomez argued on appeal that Stern’s order ran afoul of Family Code §2335, which provides:
“Except as otherwise provided by statute, in a pleading or proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties, including depositions and discovery proceedings, evidence of specific acts of misconduct is improper and inadmissible.”
“Gomez ignores the first phrase of section 2335, ‘Except as otherwise provided by statute....’ Section 4320 governs the award of spousal support.
“Section 4320, subdivision (a) provides that the court ‘may’ order spousal support. Spousal support is not mandatory. The facts and equities in a particular case may call for no spousal support or very short-term support….Section 4320 provides that the court “shall consider all of the following circumstances:...” [Italics added.] One of those circumstances is domestic violence.”
Finding of ‘Abuse’
The jurist went on to say:
“Gomez’s conduct in providing her son with alcohol to the extent he drank himself sick and forcibly cutting her daughter’s hair qualifies as ‘domestic violence’ by any reasonable definition of the term. But the trial court went farther. It applied the definition of ‘abuse’ found in section 6203 to its finding of domestic violence.”
Gilbert recited that Stern found that Gomez had caused her husband and three children emotional abuse for years. He continued:
“Gomez argues that the definition of domestic violence adopted by the trial court is too broad. Gomez claims that under the court’s approach, having an extramarital affair, or refusing to help around the house, or buying too many shoes or refusing to engage in sex could be considered domestic violence. These quotidian examples pale in comparison to what happened here.
“Gomez physically and emotionally abused her children to facilitate molesting a child.”
Gilbert went on to say:
“We need not consider here what role the fault of a party may have on the award of spousal support in the ordinary case. This is far from the ordinary case.”
Gilbert noted that the evidence showed that Gomez was able to fend for herself financially.
The case is In re Marriage of Schu, 2016 S.O.S. 6227.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company