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Massachusetts Senate advances domestic violence bill

Legislation was recently passed in the Massachusetts Senate which will give those victimized by domestic violence more protections under the law. The legislation requires employers with 50 or more employees to extend up to 15 leave days per year for any employee who provides proof that he or she is a victim of an incident of domestic violence. The employee can then use this time for court appearances, securing other housing, seeking treatment for medical issues resulting from the abuse, counseling or any other abuse-related matters.

In a related matter, another bill that provides fathers with parental leave rights that Massachusetts mothers already have under the law advanced as well. The law was changed by making the phrasing of the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act gender neutral.

Another provision of SB1892 does away with an "accord and satisfaction" provision wherein the parties involved in an incident of domestic violence sign an out-of-court agreement between them that they have voluntarily settled their differences. This allowed for the dismissal of domestic violence charges over the objections of the prosecuting attorney. In the past, battered spouses have been coerced into signing these agreements by bullying tactics from their abuser, his defense attorneys and even the abuser's family members. Victims may still state they do not wish to proceed with the charges; however, now the fate of their abuser lies in the hands of the prosecuting attorney.

This is an important step towards eradicating the problem of domestic violence in Massachusetts. Too often in the past, the victim of the original assault was victimized again during the legal proceedings through threats and coercion tactics that made him or her afraid to proceed with prosecution against the alleged abuser.

It's important to understand your rights in any court proceeding, whether it be a case of domestic violence, divorce, child custody, alimony, child support or the distribution of community property after a divorce. It is prudent to protect your rights and the rights of your minor children. An attorney who is well-versed in the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can provide valuable advice and will work to protect those rights.

Source: masslive.com, "Massachusetts Senate passes bills adding protection to domestic violence victims, extending parental leave rights to fathers" Andy Metzger, Oct. 24, 2013

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