February 3, 1996
From Correspondent Jennifer Auther
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- When children are involved, the messiest part of
divorce involves custody, support, and visitation. But another element
can add even more stress: the second wife.
Many second wives are concerned that the money going to the first family
puts an unfair strain on the man's new family. In California, second
wives have organized. They've lobbied lawmakers and changed some laws,
all on behalf of their husbands. "The anger is not directed at the boys
or his ex-wife. If there is any anger, it's directed at the laws and the
legislature," said Irene Villalpandos, who is a second wife.
If there is any anger, it's directed at the laws and the legislature" --
The largest father's rights group in California is called "The Coalition
of Parent Support," or COPS. "Why isn't a mother scrutinized for her
earning capacity?" a COP member asked.
They are angered by the idea that some first wives opt to remain in the
home, living on alimony and child support. "I'll be forced into
bankruptcy," a husband said.
Two years ago the group helped pass a bill that made it illegal to
consider a second wife's income when calculating support.
But commissioners who allocate such things see abuses on both sides.
"It's certainly true that there are mothers who use child support for
inappropriate things; it's certainly true there are fathers who try and
get time share and have second families just to avoid paying their child
support," said Superior Court Commissioner Robert Schnider.
Although second wives say that they acknowledge a husband's obligation
to his kids, they recently supported a bill in California designed to
cut child support payments by as much as 25 percent.
It's a frightening idea to many first wives. "It would mean devastation.
It really would. Right now, I'm making ends meet. I don't have money for
any extras, any frills," said divorced single mother Catie Rodgers.
California lawmaker Sheila Kuehl, who helped defeat the bill to cut
child support, takes issue with COPS members.
"They're whining about how terrible it is, but when you look at the
numbers, the money is still staying primarily with the non-custodial
parent," Kuehl said.
Members of the National Organization for Women say that the effort is
complicating the war on deadbeat parents. "I believe that COPS and its
members are motivated by a desire to reduce their financial obligation
to their children," said NOW's Elizabeth Toledo.
But second wife Irene Villalpando said she's motivated by the fact that
she and her husband live in a one-room studio to make child support
payments. The place is too small to have her husband's two boys spend
And second-wife-to-be Ramona Alvarez said she's motivated by the need to
move her life forward. "We've come to the conclusion that it's time to
get married and start a life and have our own kids," Alvarez said.
The second wives say that all they want is as much as the first wife
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