Report by Paula Antolini, April 8, 2021, 6:25PM EDT
Connecticut Senator Alex Kasser (D) Greenwich, Stamford and New Canaan, has introduced “Jennifer’s Law,” Bill No. 1060, “AN ACT CONCERNING COURT PROCEEDINGS INVOLVING ALLEGATIONS OF COERCIVE CONTROL OCCURRING BETWEEN FAMILY OR HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS,” for the 2021 Legislative session, “To strengthen state laws relating to allegations of coercive control occurring between family or household members.”
The focus of the bill is to prioritize the safety of Domestic Violence (DV) victims and their children by updating and modernizing the definition of DV in Connecticut state law to include Coercive Control – a pattern of abuse which is not necessarily physical that isolates, dominates and intimidates a victim into submission through an intimidating and threatening pattern of behavior.
Kasser’s bill would require judges to recognize victims of DV and child abuse and give them the safety and protection they deserve.
The bill is named in honor of Jennifer Dulos, the New Canaan, Connecticut, mother who went missing and was suspected of being allegedly murdered by her husband while she was pleading for her and her children’s safety in family court.
California, Washington and Hawaii have passed similar coercive control bills.
Summary of Senator Kasser’s 2021 Bill
Purpose: To amend CT civil statutes to recognize the full scope of coercive controlling behaviors, both physical and non-physical, that constitute domestic abuse and violence. To apply this understanding to family court proceedings, specifically to TROs and child custody cases. To establish custody procedures that prioritize the safety of the child and prevent tragedies like Jennifer Magnano in 2007 and Jennifer Farber Dulos in 2019. To establish early assessment of DV in family court cases. To ensure that victims are believed and protected. To recognize that when abuse occurs between parents, children are victims too. To prevent harm to ALL victims.
Amends Section 46b-1. Redefines Domestic Violence/Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence as Coercive Control. Applies this definition to family law statutes, including protective orders, divorce and custody statutes.
Amends Section 46b-15. Applies this new definition of Coercive Control to civil restraining orders (TROs) and makes the application process available online, permanently.
Amends 46b-40. Adds “intimate partner violence or domestic violence” to the recognized legal reasons to dissolve a marriage.
Amends 46b-54 regarding GAL procedures to prioritize the safety of the child.
Amends 46b-56 regarding custody proceedings to prioritize the safety of the child. If there are verified pleadings of DV or child abuse by either parent, the court must conduct an evidentiary hearing on that issue before weighing the 15 other “best interest” factors. Establishes a baseline that the best interest of the child cannot be determined until the safety of the child is assured.
Provides legal assistance for victims making an application for TROs (within available appropriations to Judicial).
Establishes a standard for Litigation Abuse – a pattern of frivolous or false motions that harass a party or create unreasonable delay or obstruction in a case.
Requires Judicial Training on these issues and an annual presentation, open to the public.
Submitted by State Senator Alex Kasser
Greenwich, Stamford and New Canaan