Senate approves Jones bill to protect women in domestic violence situations

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LANSING—Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation designed to protect women in domestic violence situations who are seeking a divorce was approved Wednesday by the Michigan Senate.

Jones’ bill addresses a practice commonly referred to as “trolling” for potential divorce clients.

“This is about preventing greedy attorneys from putting women in danger,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “When a woman is a victim of domestic violence and decides to file for divorce from her abusive husband, she should not have to worry about a trolling attorney tipping off her husband before she has time to protect herself and her children by taking actions like moving into a shelter house and getting a personal protection order.”

Senate Bill 981 would prohibit a lawyer from contacting a party of a divorce action with direct solicitation of legal services before the expiration of 14 days after the proof of service to the other party has been filed. A first violation would be a misdemeanor with up to a $1,000 fine. A second violation would be punishable by up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

“During my time as a sheriff, I unfortunately saw firsthand the impact of domestic violence on the lives of women and children,” Jones said. “These situations are filled with emotion, and the last thing that is needed is the insertion of a lawyer trolling for clients. The 14-day period will give abused women reasonable time to take care of important legal matters that will help ensure their safety.”

Jones noted that the Family Law Section of the Michigan State Bar supports the bill and has argued that the trolling practice is unsafe for women in domestic violence situations by allowing the other party to take measures prior to receiving court orders.

SB 981 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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