A New Pennsylvania divorce law designed to make lifer for spousal abuse victims will go into effect next month. This law, unanimously passed by the Pennsylvania house, will alleviate certain obstacles that hinder an abused spouse from leaving an abusive partner who will not easily agree to divorce.
When consent is not given by both parties, it can take up to two years for until a court will allow a case to proceed under current Pennsylvania divorce laws, according to JD Supra Business Adviser. Current laws also require couples who intend to divorce to attend a minimum of three mandated counselling sessions, and if both parties do not consent, the abuse can continue to stall until the marriage is terminated.
PA House Bill 12 signed by Governor Tom Wolf on April 12, 2016, would lift some of these restrictions and make it easier for abuse victims to break free from an unsafe marriage.
According to New Pittsburgh Courier, the bill would allow the court to presume consent from an abusive party who has been convicted of a personal injury against their spouse. It would also allow abuse victims to decline the otherwise mandatory counselling sessions if they obtain a protection-from-abuse order or if the abuser was convicted or sent to accelerated rehabilitation disposition (ARD) to object to mandated divorce counselling.
According to Ellen Kramer, legal director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, (PCADV ) allowing the victim to object to mandatory counselling is important to because counselling sessions are often one location where victims can suffer harassment or abuse in ways known only to the couple. Kramer called the changes a “huge win for victims” in a recent NPR article.
Wolf said in the same NPR article that spousal abuse is a clear violation of the fundamental civil right to safety. “When that violation occurs for any member of the community, it occurs for every member of that community. “It violates the right of everyone to a safe society, a society in which spousal abuse is absent, we cannot tolerate that.”
Spousal abuse victims are urged to report the abuse to the property authorities, seek save haven from the abuser and begin the Pennsylvania divorce process immediately.