GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV) Recently, the Michigan Legislature approved 7 bills to revamp the current Domestic Violence Laws. The overhaul was done in an effort to crack down on domestic violence and strengthen the current laws. Governor Snyder signed them into law in May.
HB4476, limits the court from ordering mediation in a divorce proceeding if a personal protection order (PPO) has been filed against the abuser, or if there is another case in the court dealing with abuse or neglect of one of the parties. Prior to this, it was not advisable to order mediation in the presence of domestic abuse, but often victims were still ordered to undergo mediation where they had to sit down in a room and mediate their divorce with the person they had managed to escape due to domestic violence. The new law protects victims from having to face their abuser in an attempt to mediate the divorce proceedings. The exception in this law is if the victim has asked for mediation.
HB4477, protects access to a victim’s address. When escaping an abuser a victim of violence does not want the abuser to know where he or she is residing after they have moved out of the home. Instead of the normal process server being used to serve divorce filings, alternate service has been set to protect the new address of victims of domestic violence.
HB4478, includes protection of a victim’s pets under a Personal Protection Order. Perpetrators of abuse will often use a victim’s pet as a way to gain control over the victim. This new law prevents an abuser from having access to the pet as well as the victim.
HB4479 and HB4788, increases penalties for repeat offenders of domestic violence if the abuser knows that the woman being abused is pregnant. For a third offence, the penalty has been increased to a 5 year felony. A second offense has a penalty of one year. Unfortunately, the penalty for domestic abuse for victims that are not pregnant remain at 93 days of jail and a $500 fine for a first offence and 1 year in jail and $1,000 fine (or both) for a second offence. Both are considered misdemeanors.
HB4480, is a change in the 12 Best Interest Factors used by the Court to determine what is in the best interest of a child when determining custody and visitation issues. How a parent promotes their child’s relationship with their other parent is one of the 12 factors. Prior to this new law, actions taken by a victim of domestic abuse could have their actions taken into account as not supporting the relationship between the child and the other parent. At times, this could result in the abuser getting custody or visitation because a parent attempted to protect their child by restricting access to the abuser.
HB4481, is an expansion of the current law which denies custody of a child to a person who has been convicted of rape that resulted in the birth of the child. Now a victim of rape who conceives due to the rape can provide the Court with evidence of the rape rather than there having to be a rape conviction.