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Alimony Bill Passes Takes Effect

By: Shannon Houser, Todd Baucher Email
By: Shannon Houser, Todd Baucher Email

Update 6/08/2012 6:30 P.M.

Sean Keefe of Vienna went to jail for refusing to pay alimony, after learning of his wife's infidelity. His situation led area state lawmakers to win passage of a bill this past March denying alimony in such cases. Keefe says he's learned he was not alone in having such disputes.

"I know their efforts at the rally last year...calling legislators, writing letters and e-mails," Keefe recalled Friday, "was instrumental in getting it passed."

One of Wood County's family law judges, who routinely hears divorce cases where alimony is an issue, says it will be a tool in determining the outcome of those cases.

" This statute gives us some guidelines on how we would deal with this," says Family Law Judge Darren Tallman. "It, at least, allows the parties to bring this to the attention of the court, so the court can address it."

While local residents often complain Wood County doesn't have enough influence in the state legislature, this bill may have been the exception to that belief.

"It was a heavy influence from Wood County that got Senator Nohe, Senator Boley, Delegates Ellem and Poling involved in this," Keefe says.

The infidelity has to be proved by DNA testing.

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UPDATE: 06/08/2012 1:30 AM

A new law, taking effect Friday, says if DNA evidence can prove that either spouse committed adultery, alimony will not be required to be paid to the unfaithful spouse.
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UPDATE: 03/11/2012 11:15 AM

A bill passes in the House, protecting West Virginia families, and it all started from one local man.

Sean Keefe from Vienna experienced a rough divorce when he found out his youngest son, wasn't biologically his. He never refused to pay child support, saying he loves his son as if he were his own. However, Keefe did refuse to pay alimony because his wife was unfaithful.

But, there were no laws in West Virginia protecting men when their wives commit adultery...until now.

Senate Bill 51 passed on Saturday evening with a 96-2 vote.

Once signed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, the bill will officially become a law.

The new law says if DNA evidence can prove that either spouse committed adultery, alimony will not be required to be paid to the unfaithful spouse.

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UPDATE: 03/02/2012

It caused pain for one family, sent a man to jail, and now a mission, 8 months in the making.

"If we can get these laws passed and other people don't have to go through this, other families don't have to go through this then going to jail for two months was worth it," Sean Keefe says.

Keefe continues to work towards a bill protecting spouses in West Virginia from paying alimony in cases of infidelity and protecting others from the experience that tore his family apart.

"It's not, I don't think, very controversial, whether your husband has an affair and has a child, or your wife has an affair and has a child. You should not be punished for it," Keefe adds.

And Keefe decided he wouldn't let anyone else be punished for it either. With the creation of Senate Bill 51.

"If you can prove through DNA evidence that a child was born outside of your marriage that, the way it's worded, the adulteress spouse would not receive alimony," Keefe says.

He's one step closer to reaching his goal, with the help of Senators David Nohe and Donna Boley, the bill is on it's way.

Keefe says, "it passed the senate on a 34-0 vote and we're very excited. I think that this is something that can not only protect men in West Virginia, but women, too."

"It does your heart good to see everyone in that the Senate understood what I was trying to portray, what Sean was trying to portray and come through with a 34-0 vote. Now it will go to the House, I know we have some delegates from our area that are supportive of this bill," Wood County Senator David Nohe says.

And support is exactly what Sean Keefe and his family are getting, from not only the valley, but the entire nation.

"The amount of support that we have received not just in West Virginia but throughout the country has been unbelievable, and that has done nothing but strengthen me and help me to know that what I'm doing is the right thing to do," Keefe says.

Senator Nohe says he's confident the bill will pass the house, and he won't stop until it's signed by the governor into law.
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UPDATE: 7/1/11 2:22 PM

A Vienna man was released from North Central Regional Jail yesterday evening after coming to an alimony agreement with his ex-wife.

Sean Keefe was sentenced to six months in jail for refusing to pay alimony to his ex-wife after she was unfaithful.

The decision to pay the alimony came after Keefe learned he could lose his job for being away so long serving time in jail.

Although he's paying the alimony, he won't give up the fight for new legislation in West Virginia.

"The wounds that I suffered are not on the outside but that doesn't make them any less devastating and I don't believe that I should have been shackled and chained for that," Keefe told WTAP.

Click on the link to view more of Sean's WTAP interview on his first day out of jail.

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UPDATE: 6/30/11 5:15PM

Sean Keefe will be released from North Central Regional jail, Thursday evening, after coming to an agreement with his ex-wife.

Keefe was sentenced to six months in jail for refusing to pay alimony to his ex-wife after she was unfaithful.

Keefe and his ex-wife came to an alimony agreement resulting in Keefe paying a fraction of the alimony payments over a period of time.

The decision to pay the alimony came after Keefe learned he could lose his job for being away so long serving time in jail.

Family members say that although he's paying the alimony, he won't give up the fight for new legislation in West Virginia.

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Supporters for the cause are calling it unjust and paying for adultery. And now the state of West Virginia is proposing new legislation that will not require alimony in cases where infidelity is involved.

"Responsible states have a law so that this won't happen and I'd like to see West Virginia adopt that law so that this never happens again in this state," Senator David Nohe said at a rally held on Tuesday.

Sean Keefe from Vienna was advised by a friend to get a paternity test for his youngest son, just days before the divorce with his ex-wife was final. The results showed there was a zero percent chance that his now ten-year-old son was biologically his.

Keefe's mother, Elise Keefe says,"we love the little boy, we could not love him more. He's just as much a part of our family as these other children are."

Keefe never refused to pay child support for his youngest son. In fact he's still paying eleven hundred dollars a month while in jail. However, he did refuse to pay seventeen hundred a month for alimony to his ex-wife for being unfaithful and the court sentenced him to six months in jail.

"This could all have been avoided if there were laws that protect the children," Keefe's current wife, Caroline Keefe said.

Keefe's oldest son, Ryan Keefe, stands by his father, even though this situation is effecting his entire family. "I can forgive her for certain acts, but I don't believe my father should have to pay for some else's mis-conduct."

Senator David Nohe hopes West Virginia will become a responsible state, just as he says Keefe has shown responsibility to his children. Senator Nohe plans to co-sponsor a bill that will deal specifically with alimony in cases where infidelity is present. That bill should go into review in January.

Keefe uploaded this message to his YouTube page prior to being incarcerated, explaining his situation in his own words.


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