Maryland Legislation Passes Bill to Allow Domestic Violence Proceedings as Evidence in Divorce Case
“This is an important step towards providing full protection for the victims of domestic violence in the eyes of divorce courts,” says Brandon Bernstein. “Maryland protective orders may provide physical safety and peace of mind on their own, but now they’re more powerful, as actions taken in court related to domestic violence can be used as actionable, admissible evidence in divorce proceedings.”
Maryland House Bill 293 (MD HB293) was initially introduced in January. The bill was passed by the house unanimously, before being passed by the senate unanimously, and while the bill was changed slightly the house passed the returning bill and the bill was finally approved by the governor in May.
The final summary of HB293 is as follows: “Repealing a provision providing that an order or a decision in a domestic violence proceeding is inadmissible as evidence in a divorce proceeding; and repealing a provision prohibiting a court from considering compliance with a domestic violence order as grounds for granting a decree of limited or absolute divorce.”
More specifically, HB293 repeals Family Law Article Section 7-103.1 of the Annotated Code of Maryland. This provision essentially barred actions taken in district and circuit courts for domestic violence proceedings being introduced as evidence in divorce proceedings.
Previously, while physical abuse could be considered as an accepted ground for absolute divorce in Maryland, the actual protective order was not. This eliminates the possibility of an abuser manipulating a domestic violence victim into changing his or her story, for instance, and uses written, legal documents of prior abuse as evidence in hand. While knowledge of protective orders may already be in existing court documents related to the divorce proceedings, they could not be directly used as evidence.