Va. Gov. Signs Parenting Time, Expat Divorce, Digital Assets, Quitclaim Ban, Blaze Pink, & More Bills
Here's how family law bills in Richmond stand after Feb. 20:
Signed by Governor, Enacted Into Law
- Let all government employees working overseas keep their Virginia residency and ability to get a Virginia divorce; not just servicemembers and foreign service officers.
- Tenancy by Entireties: Severing requires deed signed by both parties. This would be a huge change in how deeds are currently signed in divorces, and sounds like it would invalidate one-signature "Quitclaim" deeds signed before a divorce is final. [slightly amended but as deplorable as ever]
- Make more of minimum wage-earners' earnings garnishment-proof (but apparently only a technical correction to make one statute and court forms match another statute).
- Give fiduciaries (including executors, guardians, or power-of-attorney holders) control over "digital property" -- such as files, domains, bitcoin -- but not necessarily personal communications/social media unless the owner has specified that in the document giving the fiduciary authority. Replaces the 2015 Privacy Expectation Afterlife and Choices Act with the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. [House]
- Clarify that a surviving spouse can claim an elective share and a homestead allowance. [House]
Freshly killed in second house, after passing one house, since last post:
- Make all ex parte protective orders state the allegations they are based on, including in-court testimony as well as affidavits. (Ex parte means the defendant isn't at the hearing and gets no notification)
- Computer trespass definition expanded
- Create Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program
- Let certain charities and law firms be trustees of "self-settled spendthrift trusts"
- Service by publication electronically instead of in newspaper
Passed Both Houses, awaiting governor action OR conference committee -- Full List
- Let child support be paid to a special needs trust or ABLE account.
- Let courts make alimony payors maintain life insurance for payees [amended in House,passed Senate with substitute ]
- Crack down on "zero tolerance" suspensions; allow suspension only for certain dangerous offenses listed in statute [House Substitute version passed House, then Senate passed Senate substitute, must go to conference committee
- Adoption assistance for special needs kids: standards changed in several ways
- Putative Father Registry renamed "Birth Father Registry", notice and registration rules changed
- CPS/DSS activities involving servicemembers' children must be reported to military Family Advocacy representatives (House version)
- CPS/DSS activities involving servicemembers' children must be reported to military Family Advocacy representatives (Senate)
- CPS must investigate all abuse/neglect reports/complaints about a child one year old or less.
- Home studies must conform to a standard "template"
- Make it easier for social services to remove children from home without first trying to remedy conditions
- Firearms training for abuse victims -- House substitute agreed to by Senate
- Anyone protected by a protective order may carry a concealed weapon without a permit for 45 days. -- House substitute agreed to by Senate
- Medicaid applicants must be told how a "living will" can help them and how to make one
- Malpractice suits for estate planning: No liability to non-clients without a contract intentionally creating it; clarify statutes of limitations and when they start running
- Adult exploitation: Broader and more detailed definitions for social services laws
- Suspected adult exploitation cases must be immediately reported to local police and in some cases, state police -- Passed House, Passed Senate with substitute
- Reduce probate fees
- Clarify that a surviving spouse can claim an elective share and a homestead allowance. [Senate]
- Study whether to let unpaid lawyers withdraw without needing court's permission
- Subpoenaing medical records: Many big changes incl. specifying format to produce them in, cap copying charges, 30 days to respond, fee award presumptions, etc. [House passed, then passed Senate with amendment]
- Let exes bring post-divorce litigation back to the divorce court even if it had "remanded" jurisdiction to juvenile court. [House passed, then passed Senate with amendment]
- Demurrers: If sustained, amended pleading must incorporate or refer to earlier pleading
Passed One House, then Committee-Approved in Second House
- Ensure that clergy and religious institutions aren't required to celebrate marriages they disapprove of. [Senate version with House amendments ]
- Child meeting with judge in custody case: Changes rules on parents or lawyers being present, transcribing the conversation, transcript availability to parents or lawyers. Passed House, then Senate committee approved with amendments
- Have all custody orders sent to the children's schools. [House passed substitute version, then Senate committee approved with amendments]
- Foster parents must secure all firearms in the home
- Female circumcision/genital mutilation of minors: 20 years to life for doing it or for parent allowing it; fine up to $100,000; victim can sue. [substitute version passed Senate, then House committee approves with different substitute]
- Giving minor a dirk, switchblade or bowie knife OK between family members or for sporting event or activity.
- Have estates pay child support arrears before paying local taxes, other debts, other claims
- Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (Senate version)
- Uniform Trust Decanting Act, on moving assets from one trust into a second trust.
- Substitute judges may sit in the same courts where they regularly practice
Killed in first house (by any of several methods: Defeated, recommended not reporting, recommended tabling, carried over to next year, passed by indefinitely):
- Repeal the already-overturned ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions from state statutes [Killed with explanatory letter by large majority, including leading liberals, in Courts Committee, 10-2]
- Remove overturned same-sex marriage ban from state constitution [Senator Locke's version -- Incorporated in a bill that was killed the same day, so I assume they died together.]
- Remove overturned same-sex marriage ban from state constitution [Senator Ebbin's version. Killed with an explanatory letter]
- Remove overturned same-sex marriage ban from state constitution [House version]
- Judgment lien for spouse's medical care can't be enforced against tenants-by-entireties property unless the judgment was awarded against both spouses
- Punish adultery with a civil fine up to $250, not as a misdemeanor [Several major liberal democrats were in on the kill]
- End alimony at retirement, with a very few exceptions.
- Can't suspend driver's license for not paying support without a hearing & finding of ability to pay
- Combat-related military disability benefits are not income when calculating spousal support.
- Schools must teach age-appropriately about preventing/recognising/reporting child sex abuse, abduction, exploitation, etc. ("Erin's Law")
- Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly let child under 5 use or handle a firearm.
- Require courts in custody or visitation cases to also consider any history of abuse of non-family members [killed by 10 to 10 committee vote]
- Make it harder to restrict custody or visitation due to parent's blindness
- No standing or procedural rights as a parent for anyone who conceived the child by sex prohibited under three different statutes: (1) rape (which also includes any sex with a child under 13 who is considered the "victim" or "complaining witness"), (2) incest (but only with one's child or grandchild), or (3) "carnal knowledge" (sex or any of several other sexual acts with anyone under 15, regardless of one's own age); criminal conviction not required if facts found under a "clear and convincing evidence" standard. Can't petition for anything, needn't be named as a party to child-related cases, nor asked for consent.
- Guardians ad litem in custody/visitation/parenting time cases must file certificate of compliance with GAL standards
- Possessing firearms while under protective order a felony; grace period for selling or removing weapons from one's possession.
- Criminal financial exploitation or physical abuse/neglect of people incapacitated mentally, physically, or by age.
- Clarify that witness and document subpoenas can be enforceably served on Va. registered agents of out-of-state businesses, even if they are not parties in a case.
- Ensure process servers' access to homes in apartment buildings, gated communities, etc.
- Require public access to court case management systems/case records statewide.
- Require guardians ad litem to be appointed for any incapacitated party in a civil case. Current law only requires it for defendants. Bill would expand this to plaintiffs -- including divorce plaintiffs. But if the party has a lawyer, GAL appointment is not required, though it is still possible.
- Cap fees of court-appointed lawyers under Servicemembers Civil Relief Act at $125.00. Not per hour; per case!
- Have district court substitute judges appointed by the court's chief judge, not by the circuit courts.