Judiciary Committee reports out Schlossberg bill

Measure would protect domestic violence victims seeking divorce

HARRISBURG, Oct. 20 – A bill introduced by Rep. Mike Schlossberg that would help protect abused spouses was sent to the full House of Representatives after being reported out of the House Judiciary Committee today.

Schlossberg said that under current law, if an abusing spouse does not consent to a divorce, the abused spouse may be trapped in the marriage for up to two years. Additionally, the court may impose up to three counseling sessions in cases where the parties do not agree to divorce.

"This puts an abused spouse in a precarious position," Schlossberg said. "If the abuser does not consent to the divorce, his or her victim is forced into multiple years and multiple contacts with the abuser, bringing up painful memories of the abuse and causing further emotional torment. My bill seeks to limit this torment by letting an abused spouse obtain a divorce as if both sides consented to the divorce."

Schlossberg's bill (H.B. 12) would allow someone whose spouse had been convicted of certain personal injury crimes to use that crime as grounds for a divorce and for the divorce to occur in 90 days, instead of the two years. Current law allows an abusive spouse to withhold consent, which can drag out the divorce process.

His proposal also would prevent judges from ordering counseling if an abused spouse had a protection from abuse order or had been the victim of a personal injury crime by the other spouse.

"We need to amend Pennsylvania’s divorce laws to better empower victims of domestic violence," Schlossberg said. "No victim should be forced into face-to-face encounters with their abuser who was convicted of crimes of abuse, rape or domestic violence. My bill is a simple and meaningful way to better protect victims of domestic violence." 

This is the second bill Schlossberg has advanced to help victims avoid their perpetrator of crimes. On Oct. 1, the governor signed into law Schlossberg's proposal closing a loophole that potentially forces a woman to see her rapist if the woman is receiving financial support from her attacker. That law takes effect in December.