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Businessman seeks initiative to overhaul 'outdated' California alimony law

Alimony is 'outdated,' Huntington Beach businessman says, and he's got a petition to end most of it

For many, divorce is a difficult process fraught with emotional pain and financial battles, including lengthy legal disputes over such things as alimony.

With that in mind, Steve Clark, an independent software consultant based in Huntington Beach, has put together a petition drive for an initiative intended to overhaul alimony law in California, Times Community News reported. His website, calalimonyreform.org, is dedicated to the proposal.

In most alimony cases, the spouse with the higher income is required to pay the other a set amount of money each month to help maintain the standard of living established during the marriage.

If Clark's initiative passes, it would prohibit alimony from being awarded during divorce, legal separation and annulment proceedings. It also would immediately stop existing alimony payments that were intended to end within 10 years unless a court grants an extension of up to a year.

Any existing award of 10 years or more would be reduced at a rate of 20% over five years.

Clark's inspiration for the initiative came after his own divorce after 25 years of marriage resulted in $100,000 in court costs. He said he experienced the "many pitfalls associated with the process."

"Prior to my divorce, I was completely unaware of current family laws in California that state marriages of 10 years or more in length are subject to potential 'lifelong' alimony payments by the higher-income provider," said Clark, who is paying permanent alimony of $1,000 a month. "This was a complete shock to me and was also the cause of a painfully drawn-out divorce lasting over three years."

Clark said alimony is an "outdated" concept because women now make up nearly half the workforce in the United States.

"With approximately 47% of women in the U.S. labor force, alimony reform should no longer be thought of as a gender issue," Clark said. "Today there are plenty of women in society who have higher incomes than their husbands."

Another reason for his push is what he sees as alimony's unintended consequence for the children of divorcing couples.

"It harms children both financially and emotionally," Clark said. "In many cases such as mine, the pain associated with a long, drawn-out divorce trickles down to the children, and money that could have been directed to them for support and education is being wasted on lawyers."

Family service organizations would not comment on Clark's initiative. Several divorce lawyers and law professors did not return calls seeking comment.

For the measure to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, Clark must collect at least 365,880 valid signatures from registered voters in California before the Nov. 2 deadline this year.

Clark said he is sponsoring a signature-gathering contest in which the three petition circulators with the most signatures in a month will be awarded prizes ranging from $200 to $500.

Garcia writes for Times Community News.

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