Alimony Measure Deals with Domestic Abuse

When Kathryn Mershon Conrad's husband knocked her down and beat her so severely that he broke her leg, she was physically and emotionally devastated, the Henderson mother told Nevada lawmakers.

When a family court judge ordered her to pay alimony to that same man, Conrad said she felt victimized again. Once over the shock and anger of the judge's decision, she began contacting lawmakers so this wouldn't happen to others.

"The outrage of being ordered to pay my attacker can only be changed by changing the law," Mershon Conrad told the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday, adding that no victim should have to write a $500 check to the person who sent her to the hospital.

Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, told the panel that after
hearing her story, he agreed to join her efforts and drafted a bill that would require a judge to consider any history of domestic violence before ordering spousal support or alimony.

"Nevada law is silent on this issue," he said, adding that the intent of the bill is to ensure that spousal abuse never again is rewarded with spousal support payments.

The entire Assembly and most Senate members are supporting AB125, one of a handful of measures this session dealing with divorce and alimony issues.

Several of the measures were prompted by the case of Darren Mack, accused of killing his estranged wife, Charla, last June and shooting their divorce judge who had ordered Mack to pay $10,000 per month in spousal support out of his gross monthly income of $44,000.

Mack has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder charges. His trial is set for Oct. 1.

While the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence said they supported Manendo's bill, Keith Lyons, a Las Vegas lawyer who specializes in family law, said he and the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association oppose it.

Lyons told lawmakers that Mershon Conrad's case is an anomaly. During his career as a divorce attorney, Lyons said he had never seen a judge order alimony to an abuser, nor has any other divorce lawyers he knows.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)