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Abused Spouse Ordered to Pay Attorneys’ Fees and Spousal Support

The Vista Superior Court has ordered Crystal Harris to pay $3,000 per month in spousal support to her ex-husband, in addition to $47,000 in attorneys’ fees, despite being the victim of domestic abuse. The spousal support award was subsequently reduced to $1,000 per month due to the domestic violence allegations. The attorneys’ fees award was also reduced to $26,000 due to the restitution Harris’ husband was required to pay her in a connected criminal case where he was convicted of a sex crime.

Shawn Harris was a stay-at-home father while Crystal Harris worked as a stockbroker. Shawn Harris allegedly abused his wife during their marriage and had previously pled guilty to domestic violence-related assault in 1998. In 2008, Crystal Harris alleged that her ex-husband forced her to commit a sex act and raped her a few days later. She had even managed to record the forced sex act using a hidden tape recorder. A jury convicted Shawn Harris of committing a sex crime against his former wife (though they were unable to reach a verdict on the rape charge) and he is currently serving 6 years in prison. Spousal support payments are not due until after he is released from prison.

Crystal Harris asked that she be named, despite being a victim of a sexual crime, because she disagrees with the laws that allow monetary awards in favor of the abusive spouse. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is seeking to write legislation that would prevent convicted felons of crimes such as rape or sexual assault from being awarded payments from an injured spouse. It has been reported that Assemblywoman Toni Atkins will introduce the bill. However, Shawn Harris’ attorney believes the judge acted fairly based on the spouses’ disparities in income.

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