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Branches Board Member Proposes Legislation to Support Domestic Violence Survivors

Branches Domestic Violence Shelter is proud to support the work of Dr. Kristi McLeod, Branches board member, who has co-authored and proposed a bill in this year’s legislative session that will help when the married survivor earns the primary income and has retirement benefits and is divorcing those who are convicted of crimes involving domestic violence. 

 

Married victims of domestic violence who earn more than their spouse may find themselves unable to leave a relationship of physical violence if they know that divorcing their partner will result in a significant or paralyzing decrease in income even if their spouse is legally convicted of the crime.  This factor can act as a barrier to accessing services, seeking shelter, or leaving the abusive spouse. The legislation was proposed by Dr. McLeod, sponsored by Delegates Daniel Linville, and co-sponsored by Delegate Brandon Steele. 

 

Executive Director, Amanda McComas, says, “It is invaluable to survivors to have not only dedicated Branches board members but citizens who are focused on improving the lives of the survivors that we serve. While we can make a big impact by providing services and education, it’s also important to support the work of everyday citizens who are creating big impact by advocating for much-needed legal protections.”

 

 On behalf of the legislation, Dr. McLeod writes, “In cases where the parties cannot come to an agreement on the distribution of marital property, this bill would add convictions of domestic battery as a fifth item judges can weigh should the decision be left up to them. The way the bill is currently written, convictions of domestic battery or domestic assault is not a consideration at all which is unfortunate, especially if domestic violence is the cause of divorce. What's more, under the current law, marital assets are to be split equally, including retirement/pensions. In a case where the injured spouse is also the primary breadwinner or the only one with retirement, that person is being further punished, in this case financially, while the abuser is being rewarded for their atrocious behavior. We can do better. West Virginia can do better.”

 

The West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence writes in support of this bill, “WVCADV supports inclusion of domestic violence as a factor for judges to consider when distributing marital assets. Additionally, we commend Kristi in her efforts to lift up the voices of survivors and urge legislators to take action to move this important bill forward. “

 

To find out more information about Branches Domestic Violence Shelter and ways you can help please visit www.branchesdvs.org.  To learn more about House Bill 4520, Recognizing Convictions of Domestic Battery in the fair and equitable distribution of marital property, please visit https://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/Bills_history.cfm?input=4520&year=2024&sessiontype=RS&btype=bill

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