The Jan. 11 editorial “ A burden too heavy ” advocated that Maryland relax the burden of proof in domestic violence cases, but the law is a tapestry of interrelated rules, policy considerations and consequences. The danger from any change in the law is an unintended consequence in another area.
In Maryland, the only way a person can ask for a “no-fault” divorce is after one full year of living in separate homes. Hardly any other state has this requirement before beginning a divorce. The economy, financial dependence and custody considerations often make getting an agreement to separate impossible.
The only way one spouse can force a separation is through the domestic violence process. One unintended consequence of relaxing the standard of proof in domestic violence cases without also relaxing the grounds for divorce would be more frivolous domestic violence filings to force separations, which ultimately could result in greater judicial skepticism even in legitimate cases. This dynamic defeats the goal of domestic violence laws: to protect abused people. It is another reason, in addition to recognizing that adults should be allowed to decide for themselves when their marriage is over, why updating the domestic violence burden of proof should coincide with modernizing Maryland’s grounds for no-fault divorce.
Hadrian N. Hatfield, Derwood