March 1, 2007 — A criminal case involving a man charged with killing his wife and trying to murder the judge who presided over his divorcehas prompted a Nevada divorce bill which would write into law the rules guiding judges during alimony disputes.
As detailed in a recent story in the Elko Daily Free Press and an hour feature on CBS' 48 Hours Mystery television program, Darren Mack has denied killing his wife, Charla, and attempting to murder Chuck Weller, the judge in his Reno divorce case. According to the newspaper story, Mack was allegedly upset with how Weller was handling his Reno divorce and that his wife was supposedly denying that the couple had accumulated no community property during the marriage.
In May 2005, Weller ordered Mack to pay $10,000 a month in temporary alimony payments to Charla. According to court papers, Mack earned more than $500,000 year and was worth $9.4 million, and later filed bankruptcy to avoid these payments. The couple also had a ten-year-old daughter, and the 48 Hours television story detailed how Mack began to view himself as an advocate of fathers' rights during divorces.
On June 12, 2006, Mack allegedly stabbed Charla to death and then shot into the office of Judge Weller, who was hit with a piece of shrapnel but fully recovered within a few days. According to the 48 Hours story, Mack fled to Mexico for the next week before turning himself in. Mack has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder charges. His trial is scheduled for October 1st of this year.
After reading about this tragic case, Nevada Assemblyman John Carpenter said he felt compelled to introduce a divorce bill, AB52, addressing the rules for how judges determine alimony during divorce proceedings. According to details in the 48 Hours Mystery story, Mack felt that Weller was showing preferential treatment to his wife and not listening to him. After recovering from being shot, Weller denied all such allegations.
The Elko Daily Press story details that current Nevada divorce law does not provide any guidelines for a judge to determine alimony. Rather, divorce judges are supposed to determine Nevada alimony disputes and payments based on several precedent-setting state Supreme Court decisions, according to the story. Carpenter said it is hard to determine whether judges always follow the outlined points from those specific decisions; thus making it necessary to spell out these rules for alimony decisions in fine detail.
Carpenter's Nevada divorce legislation would specifically require judges to take into account various considerations besides any other factors which may determine alimony rewards and payments. If this bill were to become a part of Nevada divorce law, the courts would also have to consider the financial condition of each spouse, the nature and value of the respective property of each spouse, and the contribution of the spouse to any property held by the spouses. This Nevada divorce bill would also require courts to consider the duration of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and the income, earning capacity, age and health of each spouse. This legislation would further make courts consider other factors, which can be viewed in blue print in its original Nevada divorce bill text.
Unfortunately, some other Nevada divorce bills have been introduced this legislative session in reaction to violent behavior during divorce proceedings.
• AB45 is a Nevada divorce bill which would eliminate parental rights for anyone convicted of soliciting murder. This Nevada divorce bill was prompted by the case of Florela McCorkle, who was convicted of soliciting the murder of her husband Rob, who was informed of this plot by police investigators during his divorce. While currently serving prison time, Florela McCorkle still maintains some child custody rights over their daughter, a situation which has infuriated her ex-husband. The Elko Daily Free Press story says that current Nevada law eliminates parental rights in such cases only when the child is in custody of the state.
• AB125 is a Nevada divorce bill which would require judges to consider any history of domestic abuse when determining alimony payments. According to a Las Vegas Sun story, Assemblyman Mark Manendo introduced this Nevada divorce legislation after hearing the case of Kathryn Mershon Conrad, who was physically and mentally abused by her ex-husband and still had to pay him alimony. Manendo said in the story that this Nevada divorce legislation would make sure that spousal abuse is never again rewarded with alimony payments.