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New Louisiana law seeks to help domestic abuse victims divorce

On May 29, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed several bills into law designed to aid victims of domestic violence and other physical abuse within relationships. One of these will specifically impact those who seek to divorce an abusive spouse.

Senate Bill 292 makes domestic abuse grounds for obtaining an immediate divorce. The new law also mandates spousal support by the accused abuser and lifts the cap on the amount of support the alleged abuser can be ordered to pay.

Under current Louisiana law, spouses in a marriage where domestic abuse is alleged must have lived in different locations for 180 days before a divorce will be granted. Further, they cannot have any children who are minors. Also under current state law, spouses accused of domestic violence cannot be ordered to pay more than one-third of their net income to the other spouse.

According to a May 22 report on KSLA News 12, Louisiana has the unfortunate distinction of having more people killed by domestic violence than any other state. The report explained that the criteria for immediate divorce on the grounds of domestic violence includes either the physical or sexual abuse of a child or spouse by the other spouse or the issuance of an injunction or protective order against the alleged abuser. The bill, authored by State Sen. J.P. Morrell of New Orleans, passed the Senate with a unanimous vote. It is set to become law on Aug. 1.

As Sen. Morrell noted, the new law "will help us continue our efforts to eradicate domestic violence in our state, and it will show the perpetrators of these crimes that they do not want to continue committing these horrible acts in Louisiana." Gov. Jindal echoed those sentiments. He also acknowledged, "Sadly, too many victims of domestic violence live throughout Louisiana."

The other bill authored by Sen. Morrell that Jindal signed was Senate Bill 291. It allows victims of domestic violence to be awarded punitive damages in lawsuits if the abuse caused serious physical injury or mental distress. Victims are not currently allowed to sue their alleged attackers for punitive damages.

Anyone who is being abused by a spouse, or whose child is, should of course first seek safety and assistance with notifying law enforcement. Louisiana family law attorneys can then assist with the legal process of ending the marriage.

Source: Leesville Daily Leader, "Jindal enacts domestic violence laws" No author given, Jun. 02, 2014

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