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Divorced H.B. man again seeks to reform California’s ‘outdated’ alimony law

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Huntington Beach resident Steve Clark is pushing a ballot measure that would restrict California courts from ordering someone to pay more than five years of alimony to a divorced spouse.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

A Huntington Beach man is taking another shot at reforming California’s alimony law, this time by championing a ballot initiative that would restrict payments to former spouses to a maximum of five years following a divorce or legal separation.

Steve Clark, a software engineer and divorced father, said this week that, had he known 25 years ago there was a possibility he would have to pay alimony — also known as spousal support — for the rest of his life, he wouldn’t have gotten married. He said he pays his ex-wife, Cindy, $1,000 a month and is expected to do so for the rest of his life because of a judge’s orders.

Under state law, former spouses may receive alimony for a “reasonable period of time,” which can be half the length of the marriage or partnership. However, for partnerships lasting 10 years or more, judges can exercise their discretion and not set an end date for spousal support.

Clark’s proposed reform initiative seeks to “tackle the most egregious aspect of family law, which currently creates a potential lifelong obligation for the payor,” according to the website for his nonprofit, CalAlimonyReform.org. He lists self-reliance, accountability, rights, roles and entitlement as his organization’s tenets.

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Clark admits he has an ax to grind, but says it’s the principle of the matter. He noted that child support is only required for 18 years.

“It really reflects a certain percentage of [the] population in the country that has this concept of free money,” he said. “They think there’s this such thing as free. All it means is someone else is going to pay for it.”

He added, “People aren’t getting married and this is one of the reasons. I think a lot of young people hear horror stories. In this day and age, it’s really outdated. There’s no need for it.”

His ex-wife could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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Clark’s personal experience triggered his first unsuccessful attempt to get a reform initiative on the 2016 ballot. At that time, Clark’s proposal would’ve only provided alimony for a year to those who met certain hardship conditions.

Clark said the biggest hurdle with his latest proposal is raising enough money to retain a petition company that’ll help collect the over 623,000 signatures required to put the measure before voters in 2020. He estimates he and his group have collected about 2,000 signatures since they started last month.

Should their efforts come up short, Clark said they’ll keep pushing until people see the unfairness.

This is the latest proposed ballot measure from a Huntington Beach resident that’s gained attention in recent years.

In 2018, Daniel Horgan, a local real estate agent and mortgage broker, unsuccessfully circulated a petition seeking to ban semiautomatic and automatic guns in the city. City Attorney Michael Gates later sued Horgan to try and stop him from pursuing a petition that the city described as “placing [Huntington] at odds with the Constitution’s Second Amendment.”

A Sacramento County judge in 2015 halted local attorney Matthew McLaughlin’s proposed ballot measure, which sought to authorize the murder of gays and lesbians by “bullets to the head” or “any other convenient method.”

McLaughlin’s so-called Sodomite Suppression Act didn’t make it to the signature-gathering process because then-state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris asked the court to let her ignore McLaughlin’s proposal and stop it from advancing.

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