Governor Wolf Signs Bill to Support Victims of Spousal Abuse

April 21, 2016

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Wolf signed HB12 which breaks down barriers for victims of spousal abuse by empowering victims to take control of their divorce proceedings.

“When someone else experiences spousal abuse, it reflects – and often reinforces – a number of negative forces. It promotes a culture of unfairness and discrimination. It feeds on the pernicious idea that some people have clearer rights than others,” said Governor Tom Wolf.

“It builds an environment of fear among the community of friends, acquaintances and neighbors who know of the survivor’s ordeal. And this inhibits and restricts freedom of action on the part of that entire community. It dampens the open exchange of everything from ideas to feelings and sexual assault reduces the quality of life for us all. That’s not right. That’s why I’m signing HB12 today.”

Currently in Pennsylvania, even in the case of spousal abuse, if one party does not consent to a divorce, the marriage can be drawn out for two years and requires up to three face-to-face counseling sessions before a divorce is finalized. The bill, which passed unanimously in both chambers, does two things:

It allows a victim to file for divorce and the law will presume the consent of the other party if they have been convicted of committing a personal injury crime against their spouse.

It also allows the victim to object to court mandated divorce counseling if they have a protection from abuse order, were a victim of a personal injury crime, which the other party has been convicted or is in an accelerated rehabilitation disposition program because of their behavior.

“Choosing to leave an abusive person is a difficult and dangerous time. HB12 provides an important tool to make this decision safer for victims of domestic violence,” said Lori G. Sywensky, Executive Director of the Turning Point of Lehigh Valley. “Abusive partners do not just physically harm their spouses – they also abuse them emotionally and financially. HB12 ensures that the legal system works for victims and not as another tool that allows abusers to continue this abuse.”

“No one should ever be trapped in an abusive relationship because of the sick whims of a manipulative ex,” said Representative Mike Schlossberg, the sponsor of the bill. “Simply put, this legislation will make the lives of abused spouses across the commonwealth safer.”

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