It has been almost five years since the infamous Ray Rice domestic violence firestorm erupted. That incident brought the touchy subject of domestic violence to the forefront of the American consciousness. Now five years later, the news seems to have little room to cover domestic violence issues. Former Defensive End for the Dallas Cowboys Greg Hardy, released from the organization due to a domestic violence incident, is even slated to appear in the co-main event of a UFC card this weekend with little controversy following him. President Trump, gun violence, and the #metoo movement own the lion’s share of the headlines now but the conversation started in part by the Ray Rice video has started to pay dividends in state legislatures.
We have previously discussed New York’s attempt to discourage domestic violence by passing a law that forces those convicted of domestic violence to hand over their firearms. Nearby Pennsylvania has recently enacted a law that would deny spousal support during divorce proceedings to those convicted of a personal injury crime against the person they are divorcing.
The domestic violence statistics cannot be understated. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) more than 1 in 3 women report having experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. The CDC also found that nearly 1 in 4 women reported experiencing severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime compared to about 1 in 7 for men.
The new law in Pennsylvania amends the Domestic Relations code to say that a person who has been convicted of a personal injury crime against the other party in a divorce proceeding “Shall not be entitled to spousal support or alimony pendente lite.” Spousal support or alimony pendente lite are payments made from one spouse to the spouse that is less financially stable during the divorce proceedings. So, generally the spouse that makes less money can petition for support payments while the divorce process runs its course.
The new law says that if the person asking for support payments has been convicted of a personal injury crime against the spouse they are divorcing, not only will they be denied those payments but the other spouse may also be able to recover payments already made.
Lee Ciccarelli, a divorce attorney and criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania, points out that the term “personal injury crime” includes things that are not generally thought of as domestic violence crimes. Ciccarelli says that personal injury crimes under the statute includes crimes such as threatening with bodily harm, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, stalking, and harassment.
The new law may only have a limited effect on the overall incidence of domestic violence since it would only come into play during a divorce and only if the convicted spouse is the one asking for support but from a common sense justice standpoint it does seem only fair that an abusive person not get paid by the person they abused.