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Cohen Introduces Bill to Bring Those Who Flee Court-Ordered Divorce Settlements to Justice

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today reintroduced Jane's Law, a bipartisan measure that was crafted to close a legal loophole that enables people to avoid paying court-ordered property distributions by crossing state lines. The measure was named after Jane Maharam, who has been fighting since 1983 to force her ex-husband to return her assets and obey court orders.

"Far too many people across the country find themselves in the same shoes Jane Maharam found herself in more than 25 years ago," said Congressman Cohen. "Her ex-husband escaped his legal responsibilities because he fled the state and the courts were unable to enforce the law due to a loophole. It is time we close that loophole and ensure Jane and others like her get the justice they deserve."

"I am so happy that Congressman Steve Cohen has reintroduced Jane's Law," said Maharam, who is 82 years old and a graduate of New York University with a B.S. in Education. "Congressman Cohen has an outstanding reputation for being a humanitarian, a strong legislator, and getting things done. Together we will work to bring people who flee their court-ordered divorce settlements to justice."

In 1983, Jane Maharam's husband of 31 years, textile magnate Robert Maharam, ransacked their home and took with him their joint assets and possessions, including money, investments and furnishings. Following a 15-year court battle, Robert was ordered to return to Jane millions of dollars. But instead of giving back her assets from the marital estate, Robert fled. And as long as he does not return to New York State, where the couple divorced, Jane cannot hold him to the terms of the settlement because the state warrant for his arrest cannot be enforced over state lines. Sadly, many spouses or ex-spouses across the country have found themselves in the same horrific position as Jane, many of them facing a life of poverty.

"Jane's Law" is bipartisan legislation that would ensure that Robert and others like him are brought to justice. Modeled after the child support enforcement law, "Jane's Law" provides the tools for federal enforcement to retrieve stolen marital property that is illegally taken across state lines. The bill targets offenders who have willfully failed to pay and deliberately evaded payment. It would make the act of fleeing over state lines to avoid paying court-ordered separation or divorce distribution of property and/or assets over $5,000 a federal crime and require that the spouse who fled pay the full amount of the previously determined settlement.

Not only is this an issue of fairness and justice but the bill would also save taxpayers money. Unfortunately, many victims find themselves needing public assistance benefits to support themselves -- Jane's Law will help save the federal government money. Jane's Law would ensure that they receive the assets to which they are entitled, helping them stay out of poverty and off of public assistance. This legislation would deliver justice to countless victims whose very livelihoods were taken from them while reducing the burden on taxpayers to care for these victims.

The bipartisan measure is cosponsored by Congressmen Jim Costa (CA-20) and Ted Poe (TX-2).

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