Proposal Would Increase Divorce Filing Fee to Fund Violence Shelters

Last week, Tennessee Representative Jim Coley introduced a bill that would add a $10 fee to all divorces filed to help fund family violence shelters.  A portion of this fee would also be sent to the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (the “Coalition” for short).

This is a noble enough cause.  Several years ago Tennessee passed a set of laws that created funding for “Family Violence Shelters and Child Abuse Prevention Services”.  Basically, these are private programs that offer shelters, counseling, and advocacy for victims of domestic violence.  If these programs can meet certain state requirements, they receive money from the State to help them operate.

The Coalition describes itself as a “private nonprofit organization composed of diverse community leaders and program members who share a common vision of ending violence in the lives of Tennesseans through public policy, advocacy, education and activities that increase the capacity of programs and communities to address violence.”  (Description from their web site)

I don’t mind these programs being funded.  Something definitely needs to be done to help victims of domestic violence and efforts to reduce child abuse are welcome.  However, by taxing divorcing couples to pay for these services we’re suggesting there’s some sort of link between the two.  Granted, Tennessee does have its problems with domestic violence, but tying this phenomenon to divorce is unfair.

Seems to me it would make more sense to put the fee on people subject to an order of protection or increase the fine imposed on people found guilty of domestic assault.  Currently there is a maximum fine of $200 for committing domestic assault, and all that money already goes toward these same programs.  $200 is not much of a fine for assaulting a lover or family member, however.  I paid more than half of that for rolling through a stop sign on a bicycle, and I dare say assaulting somebody is a much worse crime.

In addition, the filing fees for divorce are high enough already.  Right now, in Davidson County a divorce with no minor children carries a filing fee of $184.50.  If you have children, the fee is $259.50.  Essentially it costs more to divorce your spouse than it does to assault them.  Seems kind of stupid to me.