Assembly Passes Legislation to Bring Justice to Domestic Violence Survivors During Divorce

Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the Assembly has passed legislation to assure that judges determining the division of property in a divorce must consider the effect domestic violence has had on the survivor (A.1967, Zebrowski). Current law does not expressly list domestic violence as a factor for the court to consider.

“The Assembly Majority has fought tirelessly to protect survivors of domestic violence, ensure that they have the resources and protections they need to leave their abuser and help them seek justice,” said Speaker Heastie. “Domestic violence has very damaging effects on survivors, and they deserve to have those costs weighed during a divorce.”

“Domestic violence is a scourge on our society and not only leads to the dissolution of marriages, but has very real physical, emotional and psychological effects on survivors,” said Assemblymember Kenneth Zebrowski. “It is crucial that the abuse that has occurred within a marriage is a factor during divorce proceeding. This would ensure that judges consider the immeasurable burden placed on survivors when determining equitable distribution of property."

Domestic violence takes many different forms. A court should always be able to consider the impact of such abuse on the survivor. Under current law, some court decisions have limited consideration of domestic violence to egregious assaults, which should not be the legal standard.

The proposal builds on a comprehensive package of legislation the Assembly passed in 2019 to protect and support survivors of domestic violence. The package included legislation that would allow survivors of domestic violence to terminate leases and other legal contracts that may bind them to their abuser, protect their privacy when seeking physical or mental health services and ensure they are informed of their rights