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Divorce When Domestic Abuse Has Occurred

In September 2016, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill making it easier for domestic abuse victims to get a divorce. His office explained that under the new law, unanimously passed by both legislative chambers, a spousal abuse victim can forgo the mandated divorce counseling normally required for divorces if she has obtained a protection from abuse order or if she has suffered personal injury at the hands of her spouse for which he was convicted and/or put into a program for accelerated rehabilitation disposition. In addition, the victim’s divorce can be expedited; the new law presumes that her spouse has consented to the divorce if he was convicted of inflicting personal injury on her.

As reported at the time, Pennsylvania had seen an upswing in domestic violence during the previous decade. Philadelphia County had had 226 domestic violence fatalities between 2006-2015, Allegheny County 179 and York County 67. In 2014, as many as 2,500 victims experienced some form of domestic abuse on any given day. In 2015, there were 17 domestic violence deaths in Allegheny County and 16 in Philadelphia County.

Victory for domestic violence victims

Lori G. Sywensky, Turning Point of Lehigh Valley’s executive director, hailed the new law as a victory for victims of domestic abuse. Stating that leaving an abusive spouse is a dangerous time for victims, she noted that domestic abusers harm their spouses emotionally and financially as well as physically. Expediting divorces for domestic violence victims prevents abusers from continuing to perpetrate abuse.

Mike Schlossberg, the representative who serves Pennsylvania’s 132nd district, sponsored the bill that ultimately became the new law. In his words, the new law “will make the lives of abused spouses across the Commonwealth safer.”

For more information, contact Louis Wm. Martini, attorney at law.