Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

California law allows a family court judge to deny or reduce spousal support payments in a divorce case when the spouse requesting or receiving the support has been convicted of domestic violence against the other spouse during the last five years. The law, set out in Section 4325 of the California Court of Appeals, was enacted in January 2004. The state’s Second District Court of Appeals recently explained that the law can nevertheless be applied retroactively to cover domestic abuse convictions before the statute went into effect.

rings-1185863-m.jpgHusband filed for divorce from Wife in July 2002. He alleged at the time that Wife had physically and verbally abused him roughly 200 times over the course of their marriage, including by punching him, threatening him with knives, and trying to push him down a flight of stairs. Wife was charged with a crime following an incident in 2000, in which Husband said he awoke to find her yelling at him and brandishing two knives. Wife proceeded to stab holes into the waterbed in which Husband had been sleeping, according to a police report, and Husband was cut in a struggle for the knives.

Husband and Wife entered into an agreement in 2004, under which they settled various property distribution issues and in which Husband agreed to pay Wife monthly spousal support. The appeals court later recounted that Wife continued to pepper Husband with profane and threatening text messages following their divorce, and she also harassed Husband’s fiancé. She violated restraining orders obtained by both Husband and the fiancé, according to the Court.

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In July of 2011, an obviously angry and unhappy 48 year old wife from Garden Grove in southern California whose husband of 16 months had recently filed for divorce cut off her 60 year old husband’s penis and then tossed it into the garbage disposal.

According to the police, Catherine Kieu Becker made her husband a delicious and unbeknownst to the husband, poison laced dinner and served it to him.

As the dinner (poison) kicked in, the husband felt sick and went to lie down. Shortly thereafter he lost consciousness and Becker tied his arms and legs to the bed with a rope and stripped him naked. She took a 10-inch kitchen knife and began sawing away at her husband’s penis, according to police.

This caused the husband to awake and he was conscious when his penis was removed, police said.

To add insult to injury, Becker then tossed his sliced off penis into the garbage disposal and turned it on, mutilating the organ. Consequently, the severed organ could not be reattached through surgery.

She did have the courtesy to call 911. When police arrived, she told them that “he deserved it” as she pointed to the room where her husband was bleeding profusely. He was taken to a local hospital and is reportedly recovering after surgery.

Police took Becker into custody and she was was arrested on suspicion of aggravated mayhem, false imprisonment, assault with a deadly weapon, administering a drug with intent to commit a felony, poisoning, and spousal abuse.

Becker is a real estate broker and she and her estranged husband met at church.

Although positive, supportive, and constructive approaches to ending a marriage such as mediation and Collaborative Divorce are by far the best choices, even a nasty, costly, toxic and protracted litigation would be better than this outcome. And in this case, the divorce is not finished and is sure to be most unpleasant.

In an incident that received little attention in the mainstream press, a man named Tom Ball, 58, committed suicide in front of the Keene, New Hampshire County Courthouse on June 15, 2011 by dousing himself with gasoline and lighting a match. His 15 page suicide note explained that he was angry at the state child protection bureaucracy and the courts after his ten year battle over child abuse charges. He was angry at the US court system, the federal government, police, child protective services, in general, a system that in his opinion no longer works and no longer serves our interests.

Ball’s troubles began when he slapped his then four-year-old daughter, giving her a cut on the lip, when she refused to obey him after three verbal warnings.

His wife called the child’s mental health provider who apparently told her that if she did not call the police, both she and Ball would be arrested.

So she called the police and Ball was arrested. After six months, the wife filed for divorce. Clearly, no one should strike children. But a cut lip under some circumstances, if a clearly isolated instance and without more, probably should not constitute child abuse, and certainly not domestic violence. This family probably needed help and what they got was an inflexible system that was not, by its very nature and structure, able to help the family in the ways they needed it. What if instead of dealing with the bureaucratic and inflexible family and criminal court systems, the family had been provided with therapy and counseling, what if they had been able to learn effective and compassionate communication skills, what if they had been able to learn how to resolve conflicts and better discipline skills? Perhaps the couple would still have divorced, but they probably would have learned to co-parent effectively despite the divorce. Perhaps Mr. Ball would have learned more effective methods of discipline and conflict resolution, and the child would probably have had a father and close and loving relationship with him. A far better outcome in my opinion, than a broken family and a dead father.

One interesting part of his suicide note was his observation that the United States is no longer a nation of laws; Ball described what he calls the ‘second set of books,’ which is essentially the collection of policies, procedures, and protocols that courts and executive agencies rely upon. According to Ball this includes police departments and other ‘enforcers’ across the country who use standardized responses to take judgment out of the equation. Even the guys who drove the trains to the concentration camps were just following procedures claims Ball.

Tom Ball owed about $3,000 in child support, and in his suicide letter noted that he could have borrowed the money. However, Ball had not worked in two years and faced jail time for failure to pay child support. Wouldn’t the court and his ex-wife know about his financial status? If he did not have the money before, how would he get the money after spending a year in jail?

In his lengthy note, Ball expressed his frustration with domestic violence charges and lengthy divorce proceedings, and wrote of a conspiracy of feminists and governments that disenfranchise men. I don’t agree with the claims of Ball and others that this was due to feminism and a bias in favor of women and against men in family court. But I do believe it lends credence to the view that in so many cases, the court system simply does not work and that most of us are better off learning conflict resolution skills to solve our own problems, and if necessary working with professionals to assist in that effort, rather than relying on the court system and other bureaucracies.