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Domestic violence bills clear Michigan Legislature

Brian Turner
flickr creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A bipartisan  package of bills that would increase protections for domestic violence victims in Michigan is heading to Gov. Rick Snyder for signature.

"I think we have antiquated domestic violence laws in Michigan," said State Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland, sponsor of one of the bills. "And I think this is a first step to righting the ship and making things right."

One bill in the package would allow victims to include their pets in personal protection orders. 

Kosowski said abusers often threaten  family pets as a means of controlling their victims.

Another bill would allow a victim of sexual assault that results in pregnancy to present clear and convincing evidence of the assault to prevent her rapist from having parenting time or custody. Under current law, this can happen only if the assailant has been convicted of rape. 

According to State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, who introduced the bill, clear and convincing evidence is the standard already accepted in child protection and custody cases.

"Too often in cases of sexual assault and domestic violence, a rapist will use the threat of seeking custody of the child to intimidate their pregnant victims into not pressing criminal charges," said Lyons.

Under the rest of the legislation, courts could not order victims into mediation with their abusers, and, in determining the best interest of a child for custody purposes, courts could not consider negatively the actions taken by a parent to protect a child or themselves from the child's abusive parent.