Schlossberg seeks to help child victims of domestic abuse

HARRISBURG, March 31 – Continuing his commitment to helping victims of domestic violence get away from their abusers, state Rep. Mike Schlossberg is introducing legislation that would expand the reasons for granting a mutual consent divorce to include violence against children in the home.

“Domestic violence touches many families in our communities. Victims include abused spouses and kids,” said Schlossberg, D-Lehigh. “Domestic violence not only includes physical abuse, but it also includes emotional trauma that compounds mental and behavioral health.

“Victims of domestic violence should not be trapped in an abusive marriage with legal loopholes that prolong the abuse and trauma they face. It is imperative that we make it easier for a victim of abuse and their children to get out of harm’s way without unnecessary delay.”

Under current law, a divorce is granted by the court via mutual consent when both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Another method for a mutual consent divorce is when one spouse commits a personal injury crime against the other spouse.

“Tragically, in the marriages where abuse and injury occur, criminal charges might not be brought forward. Still, abuse has likely been committed within the context of the marriage. Many victimized spouses are forced to remain in that toxic relationship until a crime has been adjudicated before they can be granted a mutual consent divorce,” Schlossberg said. “Not only does the spouse suffer in these situations, but so do children.”    

The Allentown lawmaker’s legislation would amend the mutual consent provision related to divorce law to allow the court to also grant a mutual consent divorce when a spouse has committed a personal injury crime against a minor child of the marriage or a minor child residing in the home. It also would grant a mutual consent divorce when a spouse has violated a protection from abuse order and the facts that are the basis of the violation constitute a personal injury crime against the other spouse, a minor child, or a minor child living in the home. 

“We’ve made progress in strengthening Pennsylvania’s protection from abuse law. We also made progress when Governor Wolf signed my bill into law in 2016. But the battles continue to ensure victims have a chance to break the cycles they face,” Schlossberg said.

Act 24 of 2016, which Schlossberg wrote, helped to ensure that no one in Pennsylvania is forced to remain legally attached to their abuser through marriage.

Before that law, an abuser could entrap their spouse in a marriage for two years by refusing to consent to a divorce. Additionally, courts had the ability to impose up to three counseling sessions in these cases, which further endangered an abused spouse by forcing them to continually interact with their abuser.

In 2015, the governor signed into law another Schlossberg proposal that closed a loophole which potentially forced a woman to see her rapist if the woman was receiving financial support from her attacker.