Immensely Wrong Proposed Legal Ethics Opinion: "Replying All to an Email when the Opposing Party is Copied"

BY JOHN CROUCH

My comments to the state bar ethics committee about their proposed advisory opinion which said that if a lawyer emails you and cc's his or her client, it's OK for you to "reply all" because the cc gives you "implied consent" to communicate with the opposing client.


Draft LEO 1897’s reasons for having a bright-line rule about replying-all to opposing clients are excellent, and well put. But the bright-line rule should be against communicating with represented opposing parties, not for it: Simply “reply” instead of “reply all.” And “consent … means actual consent.” (Kentucky Bar Association Ethics Opinion KBA E-442 (2017), citing New York City LEO 2009-1 (2009)).

The purpose of the Rule 4.2 is protecting clients, not lawyers. The question is not whether opposing counsel is negligent in cc’ing a client. The question is whether the consent exception to Rule 4.2 applies: can a lawyer reasonably assume consent to her communicating directly with the opposing party if she receives an email from opposing counsel that ccs opposing counsel’s client?

We work every day under the assumption that lawyers have not authorized us to communicate with their clients, except when they have explicitly said so, in which case they have usually limited the contexts, topics, time, and/or manner of such communication. (And conversely, that we have not authorized opposing counsel to do so.)

We may also assume their consent if they communicate in a situation that makes it obvious and unavoidable, such as proposing a four-way meeting, Zoom or conference call, or discussing the case with us in the courthouse hallway with the client standing right there. In those implied-consent situations, the lawyers are continuously present and are able to pause or end the conversation at any time, and to tell clients when to speak and when not to. If I am in a deposition or a four-way collaborative divorce meeting, and the other lawyer leaves the room for a few minutes, I know that her permission to communicate about the case does not apply in her absence, and I must chat with the clients about the weather or sports or something.

Those implied-consent situations involve everyone being present (electronically or physically) at the same time. (In California, the first circumstance that may indicate implied consent is whether the other attorney is present. California LEO 2011-181 (2011)). I cannot envision any situation where an e-mail would reasonably be implied consent.

How many of us have ever tried to start a free-for-all open discussion of the case between all counsel and parties, by sending an email? Who would do that in such an uncontrolled, asynchronous, and easily-misunderstood medium as email? Who would want such a freeferall to include her own client, but not the other client? So how is it reasonable to assume that other lawyers are consenting to all that?

MISUNDERSTANDING THE TECHNOLOGY

The Opinion characterizes the contrary opinions from other states as imposing a burden on a lawyer to “review the list of recipients and remove the opposing party from his response.” The situation does not actually require any such thing. To comply with Rule 4.2, all that a lawyer needs to do is to not “reply all,” and instead, to just  “reply,” which is easier and is the normal, reflexive way of answering an email. In contrast, there are media in which reply-all is the default, and difficult to avoid, such as text messaging apps and social media, and 20th-century chat rooms. Those media also lack cc and bcc functions. They are usually lighter in tone and topic. Not coincidentally, lawyers do not use those media for negotiations with opposing counsel.

Even aside from Rule 4.2 considerations, it seems sloppy and dangerous to send any email about one of your cases without taking reasonable care to see who you are sending it to. If you just hit “reply,” you know who you are sending it to. If you then deliberately add people to the cc line, you know who you’re adding. If you choose to “reply all” and there is a “recipient list,” you had better examine it to see who you are broadcasting to.

Some other states’ opinions say there is “a duty to inquire whether the opposing counsel’s client should be included in the reply.” But there is no need for that. If the other lawyer wants her client to see your reply, she’ll forward it to him. If there’s some extraordinary reason why she needs him to see your reply before she can do that, she’ll ask you to reply-all. If you still want to inquire, you can inquire – it’s easier than running through a multifactor balancing test, and 100% more accurate.

“Even though we conclude that consent ... may be implied, we do not mean to suggest that the consent requirement of the rule be taken lightly nor that it is appropriate for attorneys to stretch improperly to find implied consent. Further, even where consent may be implied, it is good practice to expressly confirm the existence of the other attorney’s consent, and to do so in writing.”
California LEO 2011-181 (2011), FN 4

CUSTOM AND USAGE IN THE INDUSTRY

The New Jersey opinion (ACPE Opinion 739 (2021)) describes emails with ccs as “group emails.” That may be consistent with “the customary usages of that technology” in New Jersey, but to apply that description to communication between Virginia opposing attorneys is anachronistic. There are a few areas of life that still include somewhat informal and group-based email communication, but our work for our clients is not one of them.  The New Jersey opinion indicates that lawyers there include so many people in email negotiations that “parsing through the group’s email recipients” is onerous. But here in Virginia, we do not resolve cases by consulting large, radically communal, semi-anonymous collective groups of people on the internet in freewheeling bull sessions.

Once upon a time, e-mail was predominantly considered an informal medium. When many of us first heard of it in the 1990s, its early adopters were computer professionals who had participated in dial-in BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems) and narrowly topical Usenet chat forums.  Some of their folkways, netiquette and jargon were passed on to new email users. Much early email use by lawyers was on Listservs, which, like BBS and Usenet, were open discussions where all messages and replies went to the entire group, including many strangers. And in those days, when e-mail was considered informal, very few lawyers thought it was an appropriate way to communicate professionally with opposing counsel.

That changed very early in the 2000s.  In my field, family law, Virginia lawyers began using email to communicate with opposing counsel. But in doing so, they intentionally retained many of the formal constraints of paper communication. Some firms preferred to send old-fashioned letters as attachments to e-mails. And in e-mails to opposing counsel that our clients are going to see, it is not considered wise to do anything informal, except for being sort of professionally “business-casual”  by dispensing with extra window-dressing verbiage and getting straight to the point. But being snarky, or flippant, cursing, typing “LOL” or “ROFL,” and allusions to off-the-court friendship or enmity, are avoided even more than they were in paper letters, because we know e-mail facilitates hair-trigger responses.  This formality is not some hidebound relic; it is essential armor for modern communication.

In the Collaborative Law community, which is based on transparent communications, we quickly learned that e-mails among both lawyers and both clients were a horrible way to do business, and we stopped, especially for any substantive discussions.

E-mail is now so far from informality that many courts use it as the only method for some crucial notices and service of pleadings to attorneys -- including U.S. District Court; the Court of Appeals of Virginia; and Circuit Courts in cases where attorneys use truefiling.com.  The “informal” frontier of internet communication long ago moved on to text messaging, social media, and other ills that we know not of.

With the cc line, as with most things, we owe its users “such a deference ... as not to suppose they acted wholly without consideration,” as Blackstone put it. If a lawyer puts a client, and, say, a paralegal, on the cc line, shouldn’t we assume there is some reason for making them mere ccs, and not the named addressees of the email? Especially if the email includes a salutation indicating whom it is speaking to, as emails between lawyers generally do? Why would a lawyer be using the cc line, other than for its traditional purpose?

At some point I stopped ccing or even bccing clients. But my concern was that a client might inadvisedly, and probably deliberately, reply-all. I never really considered that a lawyer might do that. And nobody told me to stop ccing; it was my own idea. Looking back through my emails from opposing counsels, there are not many who cced their clients in recent years, but those who did are lawyers who are models of professionalism, toughness, advocacy and competence. I  never even considered that it would be OK with them for me to include their clients in my replies.

THE PURPOSE OF RULE 4.2

Although Virginia has not adopted the ABA Comments on the Rule’s purposes, it has addressed them in LEO 1890, a Compendium Opinion on the Rule:

“The purpose of the no-contact rule is to protect a represented person from “the danger of being ‘tricked’ into giving his case away by opposing counsel's artfully crafted questions,” United States v. Jamil, 707 F.2d 638, 646 (2d Cir. 1983), and to help prevent opposing counsel from “driving a wedge between the opposing attorney and that attorney's client.” Polycast Tech. Corp. v. Uniroyal, Inc., 129 F.R.D. 621, 625 (S.D.N.Y. 1990). The presence of a person's lawyer “theoretically neutralizes” any undue influence or encroachment by opposing counsel. Univ. Patents, Inc. v. Kligman, 737 F. Supp. 325, 327 (E.D. Pa. 1990).

“Authorities recognize that the no-contact rule contributes to the proper functioning of the legal system by (1) preserving the integrity of the attorney-client relationship; (2) protecting the client from the uncounseled disclosure of privileged or other damaging information relating to the representation; (3) facilitating the settlement of disputes by channeling them through dispassionate experts; (4) maintaining a lawyer's ability to monitor the case and effectively represent the client; and (5) providing parties with the rule that most would choose to follow anyway.”

The proposed Opinion undermines all of the above purposes, because, with multi-party e-mail, both attorneys’ continuous presence in the communication — which would neutralize “any undue influence or encroachment by opposing counsel” — is not guaranteed. In fact, it's extremely unlikely, often impossible. E-mail is asynchronous.

 INFERRING AND INTERPRETING CONSENT

So, if I receive an email from opposing counsel with her client on the cc line, is it reasonable for me to assume she is asking us to start a three-way discussion of the case? If so, is her consent contingent on the assumption that I will add my own client to the conversation, to level the playing field? How far does her consent extend?

Chances are, her client is not as busy as either of the lawyers. If the first reply to her email is from her client, has she consented to my reading it? Has she consented to me replying to it? Chances are, when I first see any of these emails, she might be in court or depositions or doing something other than sitting on the edge of her seat waiting for answers to her email. How many times can her client and I go back and forth in our nominally three-way negotiation without waiting for her to check her email and catch up with what we have worked out?

This is not a bright-line rule. This is “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie …”. The Opinion just gives us the cookie, saying we can “reply all,” and is silent about how far we can go with it before the trap is sprung.

Some people have a tendency to “reply all” thoughtlessly. That may mean that it’s somewhat negligent to cc or bcc one’s client. It may mean that the Bar should be merciful to lawyers who thereby violate Rule 4.2. But there is no way that that makes it O.K. to do so.


UPDATE: March 25, 2022: Update: The ethics committee has now voted to table the proposal. 


Joint custody: Generations of "overwhelmingly consistent" expert research, reviewed by two of the wisest people I know

SUMMARY OF RESEARCH RELATED TO THE DEBATE ABOUT JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY AND SOLE PHYSICAL CUSTODY

By Lisa Herrick, Ph.D. and Adele D’Ari Ed.D. 

July 28, 2021

Excerpts:

"These are social scientists who have devoted entire careers to exploring that question. Many of the authors of the studies we will reference have been publishing research results since the 1990’s. Some of them have followed the same families for 25 years in an effort to draw valid and trustworthy conclusions."

"... shared parenting couples are not an exceptional, rare group among divorced parents ..."

"Misconception: 'Joint Physical Custody is a “grand experiment” being conducted without our knowing the impact on children and without the support of a full body of research.' In fact, Sole Physical Custody has been shown to have strong correlations to emotional and behavioral problems in children of all ages in many countries and yet has been codified in most states. There is a large body of research indicating repeatedly that families in which there are absent fathers, or minimally involved fathers produce children with the worst outcomes of adjustment. There is, in fact, a paucity of data in favor of Sole Physical Custody. There is a plethora of data in favor of Joint Physical custody."

"The social science evidence on the development of healthy parent–child relationships, and the long term benefits of healthy parent–child relationships, supports the view that shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children. . . . In general the results of the studies reviewed in this document are favorable to parenting plans that more evenly balance young children’s time between two homes. Child developmental theory and data show that babies normally form attachments to both parents and that a parent’s absence for long periods of time jeopardizes the security of these attachments. Evidence regarding the amount of parenting time in intact families and regarding the impact of daycare demonstrates that spending half time with infants and toddlers is more than sufficient to support children’s needs. Thus, to maximize children’s chances of having a good and secure relationship with each parent, we encourage both parents to maximize the time they spend with their children. . . . Research on children’s overnights with fathers favors allowing children under four to be cared for at night by each parent rather than spending every night in the same home.” (Quoting Warshak, 2017)

"Children in [joint physical custody] report no weaker attachment to Mothers than do children in [primary physical custody]. (Kelly, 2012; Fabricius 2012; Sokol, 2014; Warshak 2016)"

Children in [joint physical custody] look more similar to children in intact families on various measures of psychological and physical health than they look to children in [primary physical custody]. (Bergström, 2017; Fransson et al., 2016)

"With less access, fathers tend to have [even] less contact with children over time ..."

" When young adults are surveyed or interviewed about their own perspectives on the custody arrangements their parents had created for them, a significant majority report they did not see their fathers enough, and felt - as college students - that an equal division of time between their parents would have been their top preference. Most subjects in these studies perceived that their mothers were satisfied with the status quo while their fathers wished for more custodial time.  Children as young as 3 years old have reported in some studies that they want more time with their fathers. (Kelly, 2012; Warshak, 2016)"

"No one in this field of study is suggesting that joint physical custody would be beneficial to children when a family does have a history of domestic violence."

"In each study that shows the best outcomes for children in joint physical custody are in families where parenting conflict is low, the only reporters were mothers. No study that has found conflict to be a significant variable modulating outcome ... has included the perspectives of both parents and the children. (Fabricius et al., 2018; Berman and Daneback, 2020; Pruett et al., 2012; Steinbach and Augustijn, 2021)

"When young adults are surveyed or interviewed about their own perspectives on the custody arrangements their parents had created for them, a significant majority report they did not see their fathers enough, and felt - as college students - that an equal division of time between their parents would have been their top preference. Most subjects in these studies perceived that their mothers were satisfied with the status quo while their fathers wished for more custodial time."

"Studies of JPC and SPC receive careful scrutiny by all journals considering their inclusion and these scholars are considered to be leaders in their field."

"Scholars who support JPC universally acknowledged that symmetrical arrangements are not always best for families, and that JPC is not necessarily a 50-50 division of time. Researchers generally define JPC as providing each parent with a minimum of 35% of parenting time."

"Co-parent relationships are more cooperative over time when fathers are more engaged with their children and coparent from early on.  This suggests that father engagement positively contributes to positive parent cooperation and counters the argument that only parents who are cooperative from the get-go ultimately find ways to keep both parents involved.  This study also found that covert conflict in the early months after a divorce predicts later overt conflict. The authors suggest that when there are custodial arrangements that enable fathers to remain centrally involved in children’s lives, conflict over time may be mitigated."

"Virtually all studies to date support the idea that JPC is correlated with more positive outcomes for children even when one parent opposes it.   ...  Even when parents are in conflict, and JPC is assigned by a Court, outcomes appear to be better for the children in those families."


2022 Virginia Legislation Affecting Family Law and Practice: Prepare to be "Aquamated."

By John Wettach and John Crouch

Updated 3/10/22

PASSED BOTH HOUSES

Adoption

HB 869 Adoption. Allows a circuit court, upon consideration of a petition for adoption, to immediately enter an interlocutory order referring the case to a child-placing agency to conduct a visitation instead of entering an order of reference referring the case to a child-placing agency for investigation and makes other amendments to accommodate for and bolster this change. The bill allows petitions for adoption submitted by the persons listed as the child's parents on his birth certificate to be filed and granted under the provisions governing stepparent adoptions. The bill prohibits putative fathers from registering with the Virginia Birth Father Registry regarding a child whose adoption has been finalized and in certain other instances set forth in the bill and allows written notice of an adoption plan to be sent to a putative father by express mail with proof of delivery in addition to delivery by personal service or certified mailing as in current law.

Child Abuse/Foster Care

CB 396 Foster care placements; court review; best interests of the child. Provides that the court has the authority to review and approve or deny a foster care plan filed by a local board of social services. The bill requires a foster care plan to assess the stability of proposed placements, the services provided or plans for services to be provided to address placement instability, and a description of other placements that were considered for the child. The bill codifies the factors to be considered when determining the best interests of a child for the purposes of developing foster care plans. The bill also (i) requests that the Committee on District Courts study child dependency hearings in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court system and make recommendations to the General Assembly as to whether a separate docket or court would result in better service to children and families involved in child dependency hearings and other family law matters and (ii) directs the Office of the Children's Ombudsman to convene a work group to consider issues relating to the Commonwealth's model of court-appointed legal counsel in child dependency cases.

HB 1334 Child abuse and neglect; valid complaint. Amends the definition of "abused or neglected child" to include a child who is sexually exploited or abused by an intimate partner of the child's parent or caretaker and allows a complaint of child abuse or neglect to be deemed valid by a local department of social services (local department) in such instances. The bill allows a complaint of child abuse or neglect that alleges child trafficking to be deemed valid regardless of who the alleged abuser is or whether the alleged abuser has been identified. The bill requires a local department that receives a complaint or report of child abuse or neglect over which it does not have jurisdiction to forward such complaint or report to the appropriate local department, if the local department that does have jurisdiction is located in the Commonwealth.

Child Support

SB 455 Calculation of gross income for determination of child support; rental income. Provides that for the calculation of gross income for the purposes of determining child support, rental income shall be subject to the deduction of reasonable expenses. The bill further provides that the party claiming any such deduction has the burden of proof to establish such expenses by a preponderance of the evidence. This bill is in response to Ellis v. Sutton-Ellis, Va. App. No. 0710-20-1 (June 22, 2021).

SB 348 Support orders; retroactivity; arrearages; party's incarceration. Makes various changes to provisions of law related to child and spousal support orders, including (i) providing that in cases in which jurisdiction over child support or spousal support has been divested from the juvenile and domestic relations district court and no final support order has been entered, any award for child support or spousal support in the circuit court shall be retroactive to the date on which the proceeding was commenced by the filing of the action in the juvenile and domestic relations district court and (ii) specifying that prejudgment interest on child support should be retroactive to the date of filing. The bill provides that a party's incarceration alone for 180 or more consecutive days shall not ordinarily be deemed voluntary unemployment or underemployment for the purposes of calculating child support and imputing income for such calculation. The bill further provides that a party's incarceration for 180 or more days shall be a material change of circumstances upon which a modification of a child support order may be based. The provisions of the bill related to imputation of income apply only to petitions for child support and petitions for a modification of a child support order commenced on or after July 1, 2022, and do not create a material change in circumstances for the purposes of modifying a child support order if a parent was incarcerated prior to July 1, 2022, and the incarcerated party cannot establish a material change in circumstances other than incarceration.

Criminal

HB 228 Department of Juvenile Justice; juvenile boot camps. Eliminates the authority of the Department of Juvenile Justice to establish juvenile boot camps and the ability of a court to order a juvenile adjudicated delinquent to attend such a boot camp.

Domestic Violence/Protective Orders

HB 749 Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Victim Fund; purpose; fee apportionment. Provides that the Department of Criminal Justice Services shall adopt guidelines to make funds from the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Victim Fund, which is used to support the prosecution of domestic violence cases and victim services, available to sexual assault service providers and hospitals for the purpose of funding the cost of salaries and equipment for sexual assault forensic examiners, sexual assault nurse examiners, and pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners, with priority for funding such costs given to such forensic examiners and nurse examiners serving rural or underserved areas of the Commonwealth. The bill also increases the amount apportioned to the Fund from the fixed fees for misdemeanors and traffic infractions tried in district court.

Elder Law/Wills/Trusts/Probate

SB 687 Abuse and neglect; financial exploitation; incapacitated adults; penalties. Changes the term "incapacitated adult" to "vulnerable adult" for the purposes of the crime of abuse and neglect of such adults and defines "vulnerable adult" as any person 18 years of age or older who is impaired by reason of mental illness, intellectual or developmental disability, physical illness or disability, or other causes, including age, to the extent the adult lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make, communicate, or carry out reasonable decisions concerning his well-being or has one or more limitations that substantially impair the adult's ability to independently provide for his daily needs or safeguard his person, property, or legal interests. The bill also changes the term "person with mental incapacity" to the same meaning of "vulnerable adult" for the purposes of the crime of financial exploitation. As introduced, the bill was a recommendation of the Virginia Criminal Justice Conference. The bill incorporates SB 126. 

SB 389 Support of parents by child; repeal. Repeals the provision of the Code of Virginia requiring an adult child to assist in providing for the support and maintenance of his or her parent, when such parent requires assistance. Under current law, failure to comply with this provision is punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment in jail for a period not exceeding 12 months or both.

SB 124 Misuse of power of attorney; financial exploitation; incapacitated adults; penalty. Makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for an agent under a power of attorney who knowingly or intentionally engages in financial exploitation of an incapacitated adult who is the principal of that agent. The bill also provides that the agent's authority terminates upon such conviction. As introduced, this bill was a recommendation of the Virginia Criminal Justice Conference. This bill incorporates SB 10 and SB 690.

HB 1066 Notice of probate; exception to notice. Removes the exception to the notice of probate under current law that allows such notice to not be given when assets passing under a will or in intestacy do not exceed $5,000.

SB 129 Definitions; cremate; crematory; alkaline hydrolysis. Expands the definition of "cremate" to include reducing a dead human body to ashes and bone fragments through alkaline hydrolysis, a water-based process of dissolution using alkaline chemicals and agitation known as aquamation. The bill adds "aquamator" as an additional term for the existing definition of "cremator." The bill also adds "aquatorium" as an additional term for the existing definition of "crematory" or "crematorium" and amends the definition to include a facility containing a pressure vessel. Under current law, "cremate" means to reduce a dead human body to ashes and bone fragments by the action of fire, and "crematory" or "crematorium" means a facility containing a furnace for cremation of dead human bodies.

HB 623 Guardianship and conservatorship; duties of the guardian ad litem; report contents. Adds to the duty of a guardian ad litem appointed to represent the interests of a respondent in a guardianship or conservatorship case the requirement to recommend that counsel be appointed to represent such respondent upon the respondent's request. Under current law, the guardian ad litem is required to recommend counsel be appointed only when he believes appointment is necessary. The bill further directs the guardian ad litem to include in his report to the court an explanation by the guardian ad litem as to any (i) decision not to recommend the appointment of counsel for the respondent, (ii) determination that a less restrictive alternative to guardianship or conservatorship is not available, and (iii) determination that appointment of a limited guardian or conservator is not appropriate.

HB 634 Guardianship; duties of guardian; visitation requirements. Requires a guardian to visit an incapacitated person at least once every 90 days and make certain observations and assessments during each visit. The bill provides that a guardian may utilize a person who is directly employed and supervised by the guardian, or contract the services of a care manager who is a trained professional who specializes in the field of life-care management, geriatrics, older adults and aging or adults with disabilities and who provides written reports to the guardian regarding any such visits to satisfy the duties imposed upon such a guardian. 

Evidence

HB 734 Virginia Freedom of Information Act; disclosure of certain criminal records. Limits FOIA access to records of closed criminal investigations. Amended during the process; here is what passed both houses via a conference committee.  The widest exception to the restrictions is for "an attorney who provides a sworn declaration that the attorney has been retained by an individual for purposes of pursuing a civil or criminal action and has a good faith basis to believe that the records being requested are material to such action."

HB 1145 Civil actions; health care bills and records. Defines the term "bill" for the purposes of evidence of medical services provided in certain civil actions as a summary of charges, an invoice, or any other form prepared by the health care provider or its third-party bill administrator identifying the costs of health care services provided. The bill also clarifies the procedures for introducing evidence of medical reports, statements, or records of a health care provider by affidavit in general district court.

Health Care / Minors

HB 1359 Health care; consent to services and disclosure of records. Eliminates authority of a minor to consent to medical or health services needed in the case of outpatient care, treatment, or rehabilitation for medical illness or emotional disturbance and the disclosure of medical records related thereto. The bill also provides that an authorization for the disclosure of health records shall remain in effect until such time as it is revoked in writing to the person in possession of the health record subject to the authorization; shall include authorization for the release of all health records of the person created by the health care entity to whom permission to release health records was granted from the date on which the authorization was executed; and shall include authorization for the person named in the authorization to assist the person who is the subject of the health record in accessing health care services, including scheduling appointments for the person who is the subject of the health record and attending appointments together with the person who is the subject of the health record. The bill also provides that every health care provider shall make health records of a patient available to any person designated by a patient in an authorization to release medical records and that a health care provider shall allow a person to make an appointment for medical services on behalf of another person, regardless of whether the other person has executed an authorization to release medical records, provided that such health care provider shall not release protected health information to the person making the appointment for medical services on behalf of another person unless such person has executed an authorization to release medical records to the person making the appointment.

Judges

HJ 152 Election of Court of Appeals of Virginia Judges, Circuit Court Judges, General District Court Judges, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judges, and a member of the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission.

SB 6 Maximum number of judges in each judicial circuit. Increases from six to seven the maximum number of authorized judges in the Thirty-first Judicial Circuit (Prince William County/Manassas/Manassas Park). This bill is a recommendation of the Judicial Council of Virginia.

SB 106 Retired circuit and district court judges under recall; evaluation; qualification by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee for Courts of Justice. Requires that retired district court judges sitting as substitutes be found qualified every three years by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and House Committee for Courts of Justice instead of authorized by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The bill also requires the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia to prepare and distribute an evaluation form for each circuit and district court retired judge who has requested to be called upon to sit in recall during his final year of the three-year period following qualification. The bill further requires that the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia annually prepare and transmit a report including such evaluations conducted that year to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee for Courts of Justice by the first day of the next regular session of the General Assembly.

Lawyer Ethics and Discipline

HB 117 Attorneys; examinations and issuance of licenses; requirements. Requires, before an applicant is permitted to take the Virginia bar exam, that the applicant furnish to the Board of Bar Examiners satisfactory evidence that he has satisfactorily completed legal studies amounting to at least five semesters, or the equivalent of at least five semesters on a system other than a semester system, of full-time study at a law school approved by the American Bar Association or the Board of Bar Examiners. Under current law, an applicant is required to have completed all degree requirements of such law school.

Mental Health

HB 242 Practice of licensed professional counselors. Adds licensed professional counselors to the list of eligible providers who can disclose or recommend the withholding of patient records, face a malpractice review panel, and provide recommendations on involuntary temporary detention orders.

Real Estate

SB 498 Conveyances of property; acceptance by clerk's office for recordation. Provides that there is a presumption for state and local governmental agency and office purposes that title to property transfers to the grantee upon acceptance of a deed conveying such property by the clerk of court in the county or city in which the property is located. Such presumption does not apply to matters litigated in the federal or state courts.

Retirement 

SB 349 Division of marital property; Virginia Retirement System managed defined contribution plan; calculation of gains and losses.  Provides that if the court enters an order to distribute any Virginia Retirement System managed defined contribution plan, the Virginia Retirement System shall, if ordered by the court, calculate gains and losses from the valuation date through the date of distribution of the benefits.

 

DEAD (BY VARIOUS METHODS AND EUPHEMISMS):

Custody/Parenting Time

HB 856 Child custody, visitation, and placement; best interests of the child. Requires consideration of a child's attachment to a parent or guardian when determining the best interests of the child. The bill defines "attachment" as an aspect of the child's relationship with a parent or guardian that promotes the child's use of the parent or guardian as a secure base from which to explore, learn, and relate and to feel value, security, comfort, familiarity, and continuity.

SB 113 Custody and visitation; grandparents; mediation. Requires any case in which a grandparent petitions the court for custody or visitation of a minor grandchild to be referred by the court to mediation. The bill requires the petitioning party to pay the fee of the mediator.

HB 365 Parenting Coordinator Act. Creates the Parenting Coordinator Act, which provides a framework for the use of a parenting coordinator in actions for divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment in which custody or visitation is in issue, petitions for custody or visitation, and written agreements between parties and parenting coordinators. The Act governs the qualifications, scope of authority, appointment and removal, confidentiality, communication, records maintenance, and fees of such parenting coordinators.

SB 114 Visitation; petition of grandparent. Requires the court, in petitions for visitation filed by the grandparent of a child where either (i) the parent is the grandparent's child and is deceased, incarcerated, or incapacitated, or has had his parental rights terminated or (ii) the grandparent has an established relationship with the child and has provided a significant level of care for the child, to consider the following factors: (a) the historical relationship between the grandparent and child, (b) the motivation of the grandparent in seeking visitation, (c) the motivation of the living parent in denying visitation to the grandparent, (d) the quantity of time requested and the effect it will have on the child's daily activities, and (e) the benefits of maintaining a relationship with the extended family of the deceased parent.

Child Support

HB 1058 Interest on child support arrearages. Provides that no interest shall accrue on arrearages for child support obligations when the order for such support was entered on or after July 1, 2022.

HB 136 Wrongful death; death of the parent or guardian of a child resulting from driving under the influence; child support. Provides that any action for death by wrongful act where the defendant, as a result of driving a motor vehicle or operating a watercraft under the influence, unintentionally caused the death of another person who was the parent or legal guardian of a child, the person who has custody of such child may petition the court to order that the defendant pay child support.

HB 1077 Paternity; genetic tests to determine parentage; relief from paternity; certain actions; penalty. Provides that any person who knowingly gives any false information or makes any false statements for the purpose of determining paternity is guilty of a Class 6 felony. The bill further requires an alleged father of a child be informed of his option to request the administering of a genetic test prior to being entered as the father on a birth certificate. The bill further states that, in addition to any other available legal relief, an individual relieved of paternity who previously paid support pursuant to a child support order entered in conjunction with the set-aside paternity determination may file an action against the other party for repayment of any such support.

Child Abuse / Neglect

SB 412 Termination of parental rights; murder of child. Requires the court to terminate the parental rights of a parent upon finding, based upon clear and convincing evidence, that termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child and that the parent has been convicted of an offense under the laws of the Commonwealth or a substantially similar law of any other state, the United States, or any foreign jurisdiction that constitutes murder or voluntary manslaughter, or a felony attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any such offense, and the victim of the offense was the child of the parent over whom parental rights would be terminated. The bill also requires local boards of social services to file a petition to terminate parental rights in such instances.

Divorce

HB 1351 Grounds for divorce; cruelty, abuse, desertion, or abandonment; waiting period. Eliminates the one-year waiting period for being decreed a divorce on the grounds of cruelty, reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, or willful desertion or abandonment.

Retirement

SB 418 Division of marital property; military retainer pay. Provides that, for the purposes of dividing marital property, military retainer pay shall be classified as separate property.

Domestic Violence / Sexual Assault

HB 359 Termination of parental rights of person who committed sexual assault; clear and convincing evidence standard. Provides that the parental rights of a person who has been found by a clear and convincing evidence standard to have committed rape, carnal knowledge, or incest, which act resulted in the conception of a child, may be terminated without the need for the person to have been charged with or convicted of such offense. The bill further provides that the consent of a person found to have committed such an offense is not necessary for the validity of an adoption of such a child.

HB 475 Protective orders; petition; human trafficking and sex trafficking; penalty. Adds to the definitions of "family abuse" and "act of violence, force, or threat" used in the protective order provisions that acts of violence, force, or threat include acts in furtherance of human trafficking or commercial sex trafficking. The bill also allows a minor to petition for a protective order on his own behalf without the consent of a parent or guardian and without doing so by next friend.

HB 713 Family abuse; coercive control; penalty. Makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for a person to engage in coercive control, defined in the bill, of a family or household member. The bill also includes coercive control in the definition of "family abuse" used for the basis of the issuance of family abuse protective orders.

HB 408 Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Victim Fund; funding for sexual assault services. Adds payments to sexual assault service providers and hospitals for the purpose of providing salaries and equipment for sexual assault nurse examiners and pediatric forensic nurses to the list of purposes for which funds from the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Victim Fund may be used and requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services to prioritize funding to sexual assault service providers and hospitals that provide sexual assault nurse examiner services and pediatric forensic nurse services in rural and underserved communities when making funds available for such purpose. The bill also increases the amount apportioned to the Fund from the fixed-fee assessment for misdemeanors and traffic infractions tried in district court.

Criminal/Juvenile

HB 181 Criminal records; sealing of records; repeal. Repeals provisions not yet effective allowing for the automatic and petition-based sealing of police and court records for certain convictions, deferred dispositions, and acquittals and for offenses that have been nolle prossed or otherwise dismissed.

HB 1115 Juvenile justice; human trafficking screening. Requires the Department of Juvenile Justice to use trauma-informed screening measures to identify whether any child committed to the Department has been a victim of human trafficking and determine appropriate treatment and service options. The bill also requires that, in cases in which a juvenile and domestic relations district court or circuit court orders that a juvenile within its jurisdiction be physically examined and treated by a physician or local mental health center, such examination include trauma-informed screening measures to identify whether the juvenile has been a victim of human trafficking and determine appropriate treatment and service options.

HB 1213 Minor victims of sex trafficking; arrest and prosecution; services. Provides that no minor shall be subject to arrest, delinquency charges, or prosecution for (i) a status offense, (ii) an act that would be a misdemeanor if committed by an adult, or (iii) an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult other than a violent juvenile felony if the minor (a) is a victim of sex trafficking or severe forms of trafficking and (b) committed such offense as a direct result of being solicited, invited, recruited, encouraged, forced, intimidated, or deceived by another to engage in acts of prostitution or unlawful sexual intercourse for money or its equivalent, regardless of whether any other person has been charged or convicted of an offense related to the sex trafficking of such minor. The bill also clarifies that it is not a defense to a commercial sex trafficking charge where the adult committed such violation with a person under 18 years of age that such person under 18 years of age consented to any of the prohibited acts. The bill also provides that the local department of social services shall refer any child suspected or determined to be a victim of sex trafficking to an available victim assistance organization that provides comprehensive trauma-informed services designed to alleviate the adverse effects of trafficking and victimization and to aid in the child's healing, including assistance with case management, placement, access to educational and legal services, and mental health services.

HB 622 Custodial interrogation of a child; advisement of rights. Requires that prior to any custodial interrogation of a child by a law-enforcement officer, the child and, if no attorney is present and if no exception to the requirement that the child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian be notified applies, the child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian shall be advised that (i) the child has a right to remain silent; (ii) any statement the child makes can and may be used against the child; (iii) the child has a right to an attorney and that one will be appointed for the child if the child is not represented and wants representation; and (iv) the child has a right to have his parent, guardian, custodian, or attorney present during any questioning. The bill states that if a child indicates in any manner and at any stage of questioning during a custodial interrogation that he does not wish to be questioned further, the law-enforcement officer shall cease questioning. The bill also requires, before admitting into evidence any statement made by a child during a custodial interrogation, that the court find that the child knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his rights and states that no admission or confession made by a child younger than 16 years of age during a custodial interrogation may be admitted into evidence unless it was made in the presence of the child's parent, guardian, custodian, or attorney.

HB 658 Juveniles; appointment of counsel; indigency. Removes provisions stating that when the court appoints counsel to represent a child in a detention hearing or in a case involving a child who is alleged to be in need of services, in need of supervision, or delinquent and, after an investigation by the court services unit, finds that the parents are financially able to pay for such attorney in whole or in part and refuse to do so, the court shall assess costs against the parents for such legal services in the amount awarded the attorney by the court, not to exceed $100 if the action is in circuit court or the maximum amount specified for court-appointed counsel appearing in district court. The bill also removes provisions requiring that before counsel is appointed in any case involving a child who is alleged to be in need of services, in need of supervision, or delinquent, the court determine that the child is indigent. The bill provides that for the purposes of appointment of counsel for a delinquency proceeding, a child shall be considered indigent.

Elder Law / Probate / Wills / Trusts

HB 836 Virginia Small Estate Act; funeral expenses of decedent. Provides that any person holding the small estate of a decedent shall pay the funeral director or funeral service establishment handling the funeral of the decedent at the request of a successor of such an estate. Under current law, such payment is discretionary and made to the undertaker or mortuary.

HB 1207 Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services; training; powers and duties of guardian; annual reports by guardians; information required. Directs the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services to develop and provide training for court-appointed guardians. The bill requires an appointed guardian and any staff employed by such guardian to perform guardianship duties to complete the initial training developed by the Department within four months of the date of the initial court order of appointment and to include certain additional information in the annual report that the guardian is required under current law to submit to the local department of social services.

HB 1260 Guardianship; procedures for restriction of communication, visitation, or interaction. Provides that a guardian shall not restrict an incapacitated person's ability to communicate with, visit, or interact with other persons with whom the incapacitated person has an established relationship, unless such restriction is reasonable to prevent physical, mental, or emotional harm to or financial exploitation of such incapacitated person. Under current law, guardians are directed to not unreasonably restrict any such communication, visitation, or interaction. The bill further requires that the guardian provide written notice to any restricted person stating (i) the nature and terms of the restriction, (ii) the reasons why the guardian believes the restriction is necessary, and (iii) how the restricted person may challenge such restriction in court. The bill provides a procedure by which a person whose communication, visits, or interaction with an incapacitated person have been restricted may challenge such restriction in court.

HB 1095 Health care; decision making; end of life; penalties. Allows an adult diagnosed with a terminal condition to request and an attending health care provider to prescribe a self-administered controlled substance for the purpose of ending the patient's life in a humane and dignified manner. The bill requires that a patient's request for a self-administered controlled substance to end his life must be given orally on two occasions and in writing, signed by the patient and one witness, and that the patient be given an express opportunity to rescind his request at any time. The bill makes it a Class 2 felony (i) to willfully and deliberately alter, forge, conceal, or destroy a patient's request, or rescission of request, for a self-administered controlled substance to end his life with the intent and effect of causing the patient's death; (ii) to coerce, intimidate, or exert undue influence on a patient to request a self-administered controlled substance for the purpose of ending his life or to destroy the patient's rescission of such request with the intent and effect of causing the patient's death; or (iii) to coerce, intimidate, or exert undue influence on a patient to forgo a self-administered controlled substance for the purpose of ending the patient's life. The bill also grants immunity from civil or criminal liability and professional disciplinary action to any person who complies with the provisions of the bill and allows health care providers to refuse to participate in the provision of a self-administered controlled substance to a patient for the purpose of ending the patient's life.

SB 126 Abuse and neglect; financial exploitation; incapacitated adults; penalties. Changes the term "incapacitated adult" to "vulnerable adult" for the purposes of the crime of abuse and neglect of such adults and defines "vulnerable adult" as any person 18 years of age or older who is impaired by reason of mental illness, intellectual or developmental disability, physical illness or disability, advanced age, or other causes to the extent the adult lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make, communicate, or carry out reasonable decisions concerning his well-being or has one or more limitations that substantially impair the adult's ability to independently provide for his daily needs or safeguard his person, property, or legal interests. The bill adds the definition of "advanced age" as it is used in the definition of "vulnerable adult" to mean 65 years of age or older. The bill also changes the term "person with mental incapacity" to the same meaning of "vulnerable adult" for the purposes of the crime of financial exploitation. This bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Criminal Justice Conference. [NOW INCORPORATED IN SB 687]

HB 286 Nurse practitioners; declaration of death and cause of death. Authorizes autonomous nurse practitioners, defined in the bill, to declare death and determine cause of death; allows nurse practitioners who are not autonomous nurse practitioners to pronounce the death of a patient in certain circumstances; and eliminates the requirement for a valid Do Not Resuscitate Order for the deceased patient for declaration of death by a registered nurse, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner who is not an autonomous nurse practitioner.

SB 668 Death with Dignity Act; penalties. Allows an adult who has been determined by an attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal condition to request medication for the purpose of ending his life in a humane and dignified manner. The bill requires that a patient's request for medication to end his life be given orally on two occasions, that such request be in writing, signed by the patient and two witnesses, and that the patient be given an express opportunity to rescind his request. The bill requires that before a patient is prescribed medication to end his life, the attending physician must (i) confirm that the patient is making an informed decision; (ii) refer the patient to a capacity reviewer if the physician is uncertain as to whether the patient is making an informed decision; (iii) refer the patient to a consulting physician for confirmation or rejection of the attending physician's diagnosis; and (iv) inform the patient that he may rescind the request at any time. The bill provides that neither a patient's request for medication to end his life in a humane and dignified manner nor his act of ingesting such medication shall have any effect upon a life, health, or accident insurance policy or an annuity contract. The bill makes it a Class 2 felony (a) to willfully and deliberately alter, forge, conceal, or destroy a patient's request, or rescission of request, for medication to end his life with the intent and effect of causing the patient's death or (b) to coerce, intimidate, or exert undue influence on a patient to request medication for the purpose of ending his life or to destroy the patient's rescission of such request with the intent and effect of causing the patient's death. Finally, the bill grants immunity from civil or criminal liability and professional disciplinary action to any person who complies with the provisions of the bill and allows health care providers to refuse to participate in the provision of medication to a patient for the purpose of ending the patient's life.

HB 424 Guardianship; duties of guardian; visitation requirements. Requires a guardian to visit an incapacitated person at least once every three months and make certain observations and assessments during each visit.

HB 610 Cemeteries; interment rights; proof of kinship.  Allows a family member or descendant of a deceased person buried in a cemetery that is located on private property to petition the circuit court of the county or city where the property is located for interment rights upon such property. The bill provides that such family member or descendant may prove kinship to the court through official documentation or nonofficial documentation, such as obituaries, family Bibles or other documents with family signatures, journals or letters of the deceased person interred on the private property, family photographs, or other documentation deemed by the court to be reliable. The bill requires, upon satisfactory showing of proof of kinship, a private property owner to allow such family member or descendant access to the property for the purpose of interment.

Judges

HB 761 Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission; availability of complaint forms. Requires that any standard complaint form utilized by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission shall be made available in paper form at every clerk's office in all courts across the Commonwealth. The bill also requires that a sign be posted in all state courts of the Commonwealth, in a location accessible to the public, detailing the availability and location of such form. Such sign shall also include information on how to access a downloadable electronic version of the form, which shall be made available on the official website of the judicial system of the Commonwealth, every individual appellate, circuit, general district, and juvenile and domestic relations district court website, if such website exists, and the website for the Division of Legislative Services.

Abortion

HB 983 Provision of abortion; abortion on the basis of genetic disorder, sex, or ethnicity prohibited; penalty. Removes from the list of persons who can perform first trimester abortions any person jointly licensed by the Board of Medicine and Nursing as a nurse practitioner acting within such person's scope of practice. The bill adds procedures and processes, including the performance of an ultrasound, required to effect a pregnant person's informed written consent to the performance of an abortion. The bill adds language classifying facilities that perform five or more first trimester abortions per month as hospitals for the purpose of complying with regulations establishing minimum standards for hospitals. The bill also provides that a person who performs an abortion with knowledge that the abortion is sought solely and exclusively on account of a genetic disorder, the sex, or the ethnicity of the unborn child is guilty of a Class 4 felony.

HB 212 Provision of abortion; right to informed consent. Requires physicians and authorized nurse practitioners to follow certain procedures and processes to affect a pregnant woman's informed written consent prior to the performance of an abortion.

HB 304 Abortion; born alive human infant; treatment and care; penalty. Requires every physician licensed by the Board of Medicine who attempts to terminate a pregnancy to (i) exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of a human infant who has been born alive following such attempt as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age and (ii) take all reasonable steps to ensure the immediate transfer of the human infant who has been born alive to a hospital for further medical care. A physician who fails to comply with the requirements of this act is guilty of a Class 4 felony and may be subject to disciplinary action by the Board of Medicine. The bill also requires every hospital licensed by the Department of Health to establish a protocol for the treatment and care of a human infant who has been born alive following performance of an abortion and for the immediate reporting to law enforcement of any failure to provide such required treatment and care.

Lawyer Ethics and Discipline

HB 561 Virginia Attorney Disciplinary Commission; established. Establishes the Virginia Attorney Disciplinary Commission in the legislative branch of state government for the purpose of holding disciplinary hearings initiated by the Virginia State Bar against an attorney for a violation of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct or Unauthorized Practice Rules that would be the basis for a sanction to be imposed against such attorney and grants the Commission the power to hold issue sanctions against such attorney. The bill transfers any existing authority to discipline attorneys from the Virginia State Bar to the Commission.

LGBT Issues

HB 605 Constitutional amendment (voter referendum); marriage; repeal of same-sex marriage prohibition; affirmative right to marry. Provides for a referendum at the November 8, 2022, election to approve or reject an amendment that would repeal the constitutional provision defining marriage as only a union between a man and woman as well as the related provisions that are no longer valid as a result of the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015). The amendment provides that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of persons and requires the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions and agents to issue marriage licenses, recognize marriages, and treat all marriages equally under the law, regardless of the sex or gender of the parties to the marriage. Religious organizations and clergy acting in their religious capacity have the right to refuse to perform any marriage.


President Biden just explained perfectly what I try to get clients to understand about negotiation.

... President Putin and I had a — share a unique responsibility to manage the relationship between two powerful and proud countries — a relationship that has to be stable and predictable.  And it should be able to — we should be able to cooperate where it’s in our mutual interests.
 
And where we have differences, I wanted President Putin to understand why I say what I say and why I do what I do, and how we’ll respond to specific kinds of actions that harm America’s interests.
 
Now, I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else; it’s for the American people: fighting COVID-19; rebuilding our economy; reestablishing our relationships around the world with our allies and friends; and protecting our people.  That’s my responsibility as President. 
 
I also told him that no President of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view.  That’s just part of the DNA of our country. 
 
So, human rights is going to always be on the table, I told him.  It’s not about just going after Russia when they violate human rights; it’s about who we are.  How could I be the President of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?
 
I told him that, unlike other countries, including Russia, we’re uniquely a product of an idea.  You’ve heard me say this before, again and again, but I’m going to keep saying it.  What’s that idea?  We don’t derive our rights from the government; we possess them because we’re born — period.  And we yield them to a government.
 
And so, at the forum, I pointed out to him that that’s why we’re going raise our concerns about cases like Aleksey Navalny.  I made it clear to President Putin that we’ll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights because that’s what we are, that’s who we are.  The idea is: “We hold these truths self-evident that all men and women…”  We haven’t lived up to it completely, but we’ve always widened the arc of commitment and included more and more people.
 
And I raised the case of two wrongfully imprisoned American citizens: Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed.
 
I also raised the ability of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to operate, and the importance of a free press and freedom of speech.
 
I made it clear that we will not tolerate attempts to violate our democratic sovereignty or destabilize our democratic elections, and we would respond.
 
The bottom line is, I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.

I also said there are areas where there’s a mutual interest for us to cooperate, for our people — Russian and American people — but also for the benefit of the world and the security of the world.  One of those areas is strategic stability. 
 
You asked me many times what was I going to discuss with Putin.  Before I came, I told you I only negotiate with the individual.  And now I can tell you what I was intending to do all along, and that is to discuss and raise the issue of strategic stability and try to set up a mechanism whereby we dealt with it.
 . . . 

 I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack — period — by cyber or any other means.  I gave them a list, if I’m not mistaken — I don’t have it in front of me — 16 specific entities; 16 defined as critical infrastructure under U.S. policy, from the energy sector to our water systems.
 
Of course, the principle is one thing.  It has to be backed up by practice.  Responsible countries need to take action against criminals who conduct ransomware activities on their territory. 
 
So we agreed to task experts in both our — both our countries to work on specific understandings about what’s off limits and to follow up on specific cases that originate in other countries — either of our countries.
 
There is a long list of other issues we spent time on, from the urgent need to preserve and reopen the humanitarian corridors in Syria so that we can get food — just simple food and basic necessities to people who are starving to death; how to build it and how it is in the interest of both Russia and the United States to ensure that Iran — Iran — does not acquire nuclear weapons.  We agreed to work together there because it’s as much interest — Russia’s interest as ours.  And to how we can ensure the Arctic remains a region of cooperation rather than conflict.

 . . .

There are also areas that are more challenging.  I communicated the United States’ unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. 

. . .

 It was important to meet in person so there can be no mistake about or misrepresentations about what I wanted to communicate. 
 
I did what I came to do: Number one, identify areas of practical work our two countries can do to advance our mutual interests and also benefit the world.
 
Two, communicate directly — directly — that the United States will respond to actions that impair our vital interests or those of our allies.
 
And three, to clearly lay out our country’s priorities and our values so he heard it straight from me. 

. . . 

We’ll find out within the next six months to a year whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters.  We’ll find out whether we work to deal with everything from release of people in Russian prisons or not.  We’ll find out whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order. 
 
Because, look, the countries that most are likely to be damaged — failure to do that — are the major countries.  For example, when I talked about the pipeline that cyber hit for $5 million — that ransomware hit in the United States, I looked at him and I said, “Well, how would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?”  He said it would matter.
 
This is not about just our self-interest; it’s about a mutual self-interest.
 . . . 

Look, guys, I know we make foreign policy out to be this great, great skill that somehow is, sort of, like a secret code.   All foreign policy is, is a logical extension of personal relationships.  It’s the way human nature functions. 
 
And understand, when you run a country that does not abide by international norms, and yet you need those international norms to be somehow managed so that you can participate in the benefits that flow from them, it hurts you. 

. . .

I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability.  And he knows it.  He doesn’t know exactly what it is, but it’s significant.  And if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber.  He knows.

. . .

This is not a ‘kumbaya’ moment, as you used to say back in the ’60s in the United States, like, ‘Let’s hug and love each other.’  But it’s clearly not in anybody’s interest — your country’s or mine — for us to be in a situation where we’re in a new Cold War.”  And I truly believe he thinks that — he understands that. 
 
But that does not mean he’s ready to, quote, figuratively speaking, “lay down his arms,” and say, “Come on.”  He still, I believe, is concerned about being, quote, “encircled.”  He still is concerned that we, in fact, are looking to take him down, et cetera.  He still has those concerns, but I don’t think they are the driving force as to the kind of relationship he’s looking for with the United States. 

. . .

What is going to happen next is we’re going to be able to look back — look ahead in three to six months, and say, “Did the things we agreed to sit down and try to work out, did it work?  Do we — are we closer to a major strategic stability talks and progress?  Are we further along in terms of…” — and go down the line.  That’s going to be the test.
 
I’m not sitting here saying because the President and I agreed that we would do these things, that all of a sudden, it’s going to work.  I’m not saying that.  What I’m saying is I think there’s a genuine prospect to significantly improve relations between our two countries without us giving up a single, solitary thing based on principle and/or values. 
 . . .

Look, this is not about trust; this is about self-interest and verification of self-interest.  That’s what it’s about.  So, I — virtually almost — almost anyone that I would work out an agreement with that affected the American people’s interests, I don’t say, “Well, I trust you.  No problem.”  Let’s see what happens. 
 
You know, as that old expression goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”  We’re going to know shortly. 
 . . .

Let’s get something straight.  We know each other well; we’re not old friends.  It’s just pure business.

. . .

I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior.  ...  What will change their behavior is if the rest of world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world. ...  If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business.
 


Virginia 2021 family legislation passes, including changes to stepparent adoption, child support, collaborative divorce, divorce grounds proof.

This legislative session has many bills affecting families, but the extant ones most significantly changing family law are:

  • SB 1321 Expands stepparent adoption to people who are not married to a parent of the child.
  • HB 1852 Uniform Collaborative Law Act (Passed both houses)
  • SB 1325 Expanding some grandparents' access to visitation.
  • HB 1911 No-fault divorce; removes corroboration requirement.
  • HB 2055 Incarcerated parents may file for modification of support, and will not have income imputed to them 
  • HB 2192 Support orders will require payors to notify payee and DSS of any change to employment status or unemployment benefits
  • HB 1912 Parents no longer have to pay child support to the Dept. of Juvenile Justice
  • SB 1234 makes it easier for foreign lawyers to practice in Virginia

APPROVED BY GOVERNOR:

  • HB 1814 Garnishment of wages; protected portion of disposable earnings. Provides that the Virginia minimum hourly wage shall be used to calculate the amount of a person's aggregate disposable earnings protected from garnishment if it is greater than the federal minimum hourly wage.
  • HB 1878 Juvenile intake and petition; limited appeal to a magistrate on a finding of no probable cause or diversion
  • HB 1998 Public schools; lock-down drills, reduces annual requirement from three to two.

PASSED BOTH HOUSES:

  • HB 1852 Uniform Collaborative Law Act; created;  provides a framework for the practice of collaborative law, a process entered into voluntarily by clients for the express purpose of reaching a settlement in a family or domestic relations law matter, including (i) marriage, divorce, dissolution, annulment, and property distribution; (ii) child custody, visitation, and parenting time; (iii) alimony, spousal support, maintenance, and child support; (iv) adoption; (v) parentage; and (vi) negotiation or enforcement of premarital, marital, and separation agreements. The Act governs disclosure of information, privilege against disclosure of communications, and scope of representation by the attorneys in the proceeding. 
  • HB 2002 Child support; health care coverage, eligibility requirements. Provides that in any case in which a court enters an order directing the payment of spousal support in cases in which there are minor children that the parties have a mutual duty to support or any payment of child support or when the Department of Social Services issues an order directing the payment of child support, and when it appears that the gross income of a custodial parent of a dependent child is no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the court or the Department of Social Services shall notify the parties of the availability of medical assistance through the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security plan or other government sponsored coverage through the Department of Medical Assistance Services. (Amended before passing, however.)
  • HB 2012 Protective orders; violations of preliminary child protective order, changes punishment, etc.
  • SB 1415 Protective orders; violations of preliminary child protective order, changes punishment, etc.
  • HB 1911 No-fault divorce; removes corroboration requirement. 
  • SB 1325  Visitation; petition of grandparent. Allows a grandparent who has petitioned the court for visitation of a minor grandchild, in cases where the parent of the minor grandchild is deceased or incapacitated, to introduce evidence of such deceased or incapacitated parent's consent to visitation with the grandparent. The bill provides that if the parent's consent is proven by a preponderance of the evidence, the court may determine the issue of grandparent visitation in the best interest of the minor grandchild.
  • SB 1321 Confirmatory adoption; expands the stepparent adoption provisions. Expands the stepparent adoption provisions to allow a person who is not the child's stepparent but has a legitimate interest in the child to file a joint petition for adoption with the child's birth parent or parent by adoption. (Continued to special session)
  • HB 1912 Child support payments; juvenile in custody of or committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Provides that the Department of Juvenile Justice is no longer required to apply for child support from, and the parent of a juvenile is no longer responsible to pay child support to, the Department of Social Services for a juvenile who is in the temporary custody of or committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice.
  • HB 2192 Support orders; contents of orders, change in employment status, unemployment benefits. Requires support orders to contain a provision requiring an obligor to keep the Department of Social Services or a court informed of, in addition to the name, address, and telephone number of his current employer, any change to his employment status and if he has filed a claim for or is receiving unemployment benefits. The bill further requires that the provision shall further specify that any such change or filing be communicated to the Department of Social Services or the court in writing within 30 days of such change or filing.
  • HB 2055 Child support obligations; party's incarceration not deemed voluntary unemployment/underemployment. Provides that a party's incarceration for 180 or more consecutive days shall not ordinarily be deemed voluntary unemployment or underemployment for the purposes of calculating child support and imputing income for such calculation. The bill further provides that a party's incarceration for 180 or more days shall be a material change of circumstances upon which a modification of a child support order may be based. [SENT TO CONFERENCE COMMITTEE 2/25/21]
  • SB 1184 Standby guardianship; triggering event for child's standby guardianship can include  "the parent's detention, incarceration, or deportation in connection with an immigration action."
  • HJ 582 Constitutional amendment; fundamental right to marry, removes same-sex marriage prohibition; and HJ 539 Constitutional amendment; removes same-sex marriage prohibition. Bills combined.
  • SB 1142 Marriage; persons who may celebrate rites, authorizes current members of the General Assembly, Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General to perform marriages without bond or court order.
  • HB 2193 Settlement agreements; staying of dismissal of case pending parties' compliance with their agreement. Does not appear to be designed for family law cases, but does not appear to exclude them, either. [SENT TO CONFERENCE COMMITTEE 2/25/21]
  • HB 2099 Judgments; limitations on enforcement, shortened from 20 years to 10; judgment liens
  • SB 1181 Special immigrant juvenile status; juvenile court retains jurisdiction to make findings that would qualify a child for that status.
  • SB 1261 Court of Appeals; expands jurisdiction, increases from 11 to 17 number of judges on Court [SENT TO CONFERENCE COMMITTEE 2/25/21]
  • HB 2230 Supported decision-making agreements; DBHDS to develop and implement a program, etc. Directs the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (the Department) to develop and implement a program to educate individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and others regarding the availability of supported decision-making agreements, the process by which an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability may enter into a supported decision-making agreement with a supporter, and the rights and responsibilities of principals and supporters who are parties to a supported decision-making agreement, which shall include specific training opportunities, development of model supported decision-making agreements, and development of information about and protocols for preventing, identifying, and addressing abuse and exploitation of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who enter into supported decision-making agreements. 
  • SB 1328 State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program; created. Creates the State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program (the program) to facilitate child placements with relatives, including fictive kin, and ensure permanency for children. The bill sets forth eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements.
  • HB 1853 Lawyers; client accounts. Lets the Supreme Court require lawyers to deposit client funds in an interest-bearing account.
  • HB 2018 Emergency order for adult protective services; acts of violence, etc., or financial exploitation. Allows the circuit court, upon a finding that an incapacitated adult has been, within a reasonable period of time, subjected to an act of violence, force, or threat or been subjected to financial exploitation, to include in an emergency order for adult protective services one or more of the following conditions to be imposed on the alleged perpetrator: (i) a prohibition on acts of violence, force, or threat or criminal offenses that may result in injury to person or property; (ii) a prohibition on such other contacts by the alleged perpetrator with the adult or the adult's family or household members as the court deems necessary for the health and safety of such persons; or (iii) such other conditions as the court deems necessary to prevent (a) acts of violence, force, or threat; (b) criminal offenses that may result in injury to persons or property; (c) communication or other contact of any kind by the alleged perpetrator; or (d) financial exploitation by the alleged perpetrator. The bill provides that any person who violates any such condition is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Also, the bill provides that hearings on emergency orders for adult protective services shall be held no earlier than 24 hours and no later than 72 hours after the notice required has been given, unless such notice has been waived by the court. Current law just requires such hearing be held no earlier than 24 hours. Lastly, the bill provides that if the court enters an order containing any of the aforementioned conditions, the primary law-enforcement agency providing service and entry of protective orders shall enter the name of the perpetrator into the Virginia Criminal Information Network and the order shall be served forthwith on the perpetrator.
  • HB 2317 Sexual and Domestic Violence, Advisory Committee on; increases membership, duties.
  • HB 2190 Wrongful death suits; parents and siblings as beneficiaries.
  • SB 1121 Birth certificates; an amendment of a certificate shall be evaluated by the State Registrar.
  • SB 1138 Sexually transmitted infections; infected sexual battery, penalty. [SENT TO CONFERENCE COMMITTEE 2/25/21]
  • HB 2161 Prohibits discrimination against active military or a military spouse
  • SB 1410 Active military or a military spouse; prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, employment, rentals, etc.
  • HB 2064 Recording an electronic document; electronic notarial certificate; emergency. 
  • HB 1953 Licensed certified midwives; clarifies definition, licensure, etc.
  • HB 1962 Foster care; termination of parental rights, relatives and fictive kin. Requires local departments of social services and licensed child-placing agencies to involve in the development of a child's foster care plan the child's relatives and fictive kin who are interested in the child's welfare. The bill requires that a child 12 years of age or older be involved in the development of his foster care plan; under current law, a child's involvement is mandatory upon reaching 14 years of age. The bill contains other amendments to provisions governing foster care and termination of parental rights that encourage the placement of children with relatives and fictive kin.
  • SB 1297 Emergency order for adult protective services; acts of violence, etc., or financial exploitation. Allows the circuit court, upon a finding that an incapacitated adult has been, within a reasonable period of time, subjected to an act of violence, force, or threat or been subjected to financial exploitation, to include in an emergency order for adult protective services one or more of the following conditions to be imposed on the alleged perpetrator: (i) a prohibition on acts of violence, force, or threat or criminal offenses that may result in injury to person or property; (ii) a prohibition on such other contacts by the alleged perpetrator with the adult or the adult's family or household members as the court deems necessary for the health and safety of such persons; or (iii) such other conditions as the court deems necessary to prevent (a) acts of violence, force, or threat; (b) criminal offenses that may result in injury to persons or property; (c) communication or other contact of any kind by the alleged perpetrator; or (d) financial exploitation by the alleged perpetrator. The bill provides that any person who violates any such condition is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Also, the bill provides that hearings on emergency orders for adult protective services shall be held no earlier than 24 hours and no later than 72 hours after the notice required has been given, unless such notice has been waived by the court. Current law just requires such hearing be held no earlier than 24 hours.
  • SB 1168 "Abused or neglected child;" definition.
  • SB 1178 Genetic counseling. Repeals the conscience clause for genetic counselors who forgo participating in counseling that conflicts with their deeply held moral or religious beliefs, provided that they inform the patient and offer to direct the patient to the online directory of licensed genetic counselors maintained by the Board of Medicine. The law being repealed also prohibits the licensing of any genetic counselor from being contingent upon participating in such counseling.
  • SB 1320 Licensed certified midwives; clarifies definition, licensure, etc.
  • HB 1957 Adult adoption; investigation and report. Removes the requirement that an investigation and report be conducted when a petition is filed for the adoption of a person 18 years of age or older on the basis of good cause shown and after a showing that the person to be adopted is at least 15 years younger than the petitioner and the petitioner and the person to be adopted have known each other for at least one year prior to the filing of the petition for adoption.
  • HB 2191 Social services, local department of; location of child in local department's custody. Provides that a local department of social services shall, upon request of the legal guardian or custodian of a child, disclose to such legal guardian or custodian the location of the child when the child is in the custody of another legal guardian or custodian, unless the local department finds that such disclosure would compromise the safety of the child or the legal guardian or custodian.
  • SB 1150 Military Spouse Liaison; position created in Department of Veterans Services

PASSED ONE HOUSE, OUT OF COMMITTEE IN THE OTHER:

PASSED ONE HOUSE:

  • SB 1234 Virginia State Bar examination; foreign applicants. Allows persons who have been licensed as an attorney or barrister in a foreign country, obtained an LL.M degree from an accredited law school in the United States, and been admitted to practice law before the court of last resort in any state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia to sit for the Virginia Bar examination.
  • SB 1427 Early Psychosis Intervention and Coordinated Specialty Care Program Advisory Board; established

DEAD (UNDER VARIOUS EUPHEMISMS)

  • HJ 515 Constitutional amendment; right of parents. Adds to the Constitution of Virginia the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children. The amendment prohibits the Commonwealth from infringing these rights without demonstrating that the governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served. This section shall not be construed to apply to a parental action or decision that would physically harm or end the life of the child. LEFT IN HOUSE PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE. List of co-sponsors
  • HB 2041 Best interests of the child; assuring frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Provides that, in determining the best interests of the child for purposes of custody and visitation arrangements, upon request of either party, the court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents so as to maximize the amount of time the child spends with each parent. The bill further provides that such parenting time may be adjusted in consideration of certain factors.
  • HB 1932 Child-placing agencies; conscience clause. Repeals provisions that allowed child-placing agencies to refuse to perform, assist with, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any child placements when the proposed placement would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies.
  • SB 1123 Will contest: presumption of undue influence. Provides that in any case contesting the validity of a decedent's will where a presumption of undue influence arises, the burden of producing evidence and the burden of persuasion as to the factual issue that undue influence was exerted over the testator shall be on the party against whom the presumption operates.
  • HB 1856 Estate planning documents; electronic execution, codifies Uniform Electronic Wills Act. Permits trusts, advance medical directives, and refusals to make anatomical gifts to be signed and notarized, as appropriate, by electronic means. The bill also codifies the Uniform Electronic Wills Act, which permits a testator to execute a will by electronic means. The Act requires that the will be signed by two witnesses who are in the physical or electronic presence of the testator and acknowledged by the testator and attesting witnesses in the physical or electronic presence of a notary public.
  • HB 2005 Disposition of the remains of a decedent; persons to make arrangements for funeral. Establishes an order of priority for persons who have the right to make arrangements and otherwise be responsible for a decedent's funeral and the disposition of his remains and establishes processes by which such persons may assert or forfeit their right to make arrangements and otherwise be responsible for a decedent's funeral and the disposition of his remains. The bill also provides protections for any funeral service establishment, funeral service establishment manager of record, funeral service licensee, funeral director, embalmer, registered crematory, registered crematory owner, registered crematory manager of record, or certified crematory operator that relies upon a written statement made by a person attesting to his right to make arrangements or otherwise be responsible for a decedent's funeral and sets out rights of funeral service establishments when there is a dispute regarding the arrangements of a decedent's funeral or his remains or the identity of any persons who have the right to make arrangements for the decedent. The bill also adds provisions related to designation of a person to make arrangements for a decedent's funeral or disposition of a decedent's remains, clarification of decision-making authority when next of kin disagrees, and procedures in the absence of next of kin for cemeteries or cemetery companies.
  • HB 2003 Consumer Protection Act; prohibited practices; certain advertising related to school quality. Adds as a prohibited practice under the Consumer Protection Act the use in any advertising of any information regarding the quality of any public or private elementary or secondary school other than information derived from the school quality indicators contained in the School Quality Profiles established by the Department of Education or information derived from a school's website or the website of the school's district. The bill provides that the prohibition applies to real estate licensees.
  • HJ 614 Constitutional amendment; real property tax exemption for surviving spouses. Real property tax exemption; surviving spouses of service members who died while serving or from a service-connected injury or illness. Provides that the General Assembly may by general law exempt from taxation the real property of a surviving spouse of (i) a member of the armed services who died while serving or (ii) a veteran who died from a service-connected disability or illness. Under a current constitutional provision, only the surviving spouse of a member of the armed forces who was killed in action is eligible for the real property tax exemption.
  • HJ 568 Juvenile justice; prevention of girls who are victims of violence from entering system.
  • HB 2241 Unborn child protection from dismemberment abortion; penalties.
  • H.B. 2319 Cohabitants liable for illegal access to firearms

Can "conservative" churches stop breaking up families?

By John Crouch

The “Child-Friendly Faith Project” has a full plate of deadly serious issues of child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, etc.

But for me, as a family law attorney, the idea of "Child-Friendly Faith” also raises other important issues that we need to do something about. 

Churches have too often been involved in child abduction, alienation, and other efforts to destroy two-parent families after divorce or unwed childbearing. As a Christian I’m horrified by churches’ role in, to take two recent examples from Virginia, the long-term “underground” child abduction in the Miller-Jenkins case, and the grossly false abuse accusations and international child abduction in the McLaughlin case.

Partly, it’s that some faith leaders have not focused their attention on family-law issues, and they still have “legacy” views about them which may have been conservative in earlier generations, but which are now so out of step with the reality of family life, that their effect when put into practice is to combine with the worst of anti-family radicalism -- essentially, to take families that are already somewhat broken and break them even further.

For example, I encounter many people who essentially think that every divorce is really a “fault” divorce. And that the spouse who “abandoned” or disrupted the marriage has thus abandoned the whole family, or should be expelled from it. Or that visitation, and dealing with the reality of having a divorced  or unwed family, is worse for children than losing a parent completely. Or that a parent who doesn’t share their religion should not get to be a parent.

Even though these views are superficially more “pro-mother” and “anti-father” than vice versa, I don’t think there’s anything feminist or liberated about them. In fact, they are usually part of a larger pattern of patriarchy -- grandparents who don’t respect their adult children's formation of a new nuclear family with their spouses, and who treat their grandchildren as the property of the patriarchal extended family, not as individuals with a right to know and live with both natural parents.

It’s not just that some clergy have these beliefs. Those lay people who tend to think that way also tend to seek, and expect, help from their churches. 

We need an interdenominational movement to raise churches’ consciousness about healthy ways to deal with divorce and nontraditional families. No, that’s not all that churches should do -- their divorce ministries should not overshadow their fundamental responsibility to support and foster healthy marriages, which has been sorely neglected for generations -- but they also need to stop making divorces worse.

And while it could take some time for churches to decide exactly what to do to HELP divorced and unwed families, there should be no mystery or delay about what they should STOP doing -- stop helping child abductors and others who would force a parent out of a child’s life.


Governor Approves 59 Bills Changing Family Law, 46 More Affecting Family Life, But Modifies Gun Restrictions

Updated 4/23/20

By John Crouch and Sarah Panariello

This year's legislative session included many modest but salutary amendments to make family life and family law a little more efficient and fair. There were also immense amounts of mostly political legislation that will have various side effects on families and work their way into family law cases. 59 of the former and 46 of the latter passed. But another 109 of the family law/family life bills we were tracking are now dead, at least for this year.

The Governor has now acted on all such bills that both houses passed (except for joint resolutions, such as the ones passing the ERA, which do not involve him). He suggested amendments or substitute versions for a few, slightly relaxing new gun-control restrictions and penalties, and signed the rest.

This post has been updated throughout the legislative season to track all family-law bills, and many bills on other topics that will affect family life and family law cases. They are listed below based on what stage of the becomes-a-law process they are at, and then, within that, by subject. If anything is incomplete or not up to date, please inform us by commenting.

HIGHLIGHTS

A bill makes pendente lite spousal support guidelines apply in Circuit Court as well as Juvenile, and reduces them slightly to account for the recent federal tax law change to taxing payors instead of payees for alimony. Another clarifies that after "reserving jurisdiction" to award spousal support, such support can only be awarded based on a material change of circumstances, unless the agreement or divorce decree expressly says otherwise.  There is also a tweak to the new statute that made alimony awards in new separation agreements be presumed modifiable unless they expressly said otherwise. That would still be the rule, but the statement that prevents or limits modification will no longer have to be in the exact words prescribed by the Code.

A bill splits unpaid expenses of pregnancy and childbirth in proportion to the parents' incomes, if a support case is filed in the child's first six months. Another clarifies that courts can award child-related tax credits, not just dependency exemptions. The cap on what is considered reasonably-priced court-ordered health insurance is lowered significantly.

Targeted for demolition this year is the rule that in Juvenile Court, fee awards are only based on relative economic circumstances, and nothing else. 

Several bills tweak the factors and presumptions in child custody and visitation decisions, but probably with little effect anytime soon. Judges could consider the motives of both parties in grandparent visitation disputes; and should consider a party's history of violent or sexual abuse even if it involved their other partners and children, not the ones the case is about.

Also affecting custody cases is a bill saying both parents must have equal access to day care records and information. Speaking of day care, a huge change is being proposed that would create a comprehensive system of public and private day care for everyone, like unto the K-12 school system. Similar proposed comprehensive social programs include, at the other end of the cradle-to-grave spectrum, a state-run retirement account that private employers could opt into.

Many others are nice little changes, but frankly minor. One bill would have abolished the requirement for  third-party corroborating witnesses to prove divorce grounds. It passed the House, and the Senate's committees, but was defeated on the Senate floor by four votes. Others put legal notices into online publications and take them off of the courthouse door, and let you send notice of publication orders by email, sometimes.

One perennial minor annoyance is the requirement to file an original of the return or affidavit of process-service within 72 hours. When you're having people served in faraway states or on other continents, as I regularly do, that's often impossible.  The questionable 72-hour rule remains, but there is a bill that allows copies, faxes, scans etc. instead of the original.

As always, there are many bills cracking down on domestic violence and sexual abuse, but there is so little of this still left to do that they are either exceedingly marginal, or so imaginative that their net effect may be to give the bad guys more destructive ideas, such as filing lawsuits to retaliate against, or deter, victims' pursuing civil or criminal remedies. 

Adult guardianship and conservatorship are facing a major overhaul, aiming much more scrutiny at guardians and other fiduciaries.

Sexual freedom and discrimination: One bill abolishes the requirements for children to get a parent's or a judge's permission for abortions. Others all but outlaw "conversion therapy" for minors, and do several things to banish all forms of anti-gay or anti-trans discrimination. And among the first bills to pass both houses are two ratifying the federal Equal Rights Amendment. 

A few bills aim to decriminalize school and adolescence. A couple assure schools that they do not have to involve the police every time a child does something that might be a misdemeanor. Another says that schools and school buses are not "public places" when applying criminal laws against "disorderly conduct."  Sunscreen would no longer be contraband in school, but the kids would have to stay out of tanning salons. After all, how do we know that they aren't getting "conversion therapy" in those tanning beds? Other bills aim to put fewer children on the sex offender registry for the rest of their lives, and send most teenage "sexters" to counseling instead of child-pornographer prison.

Many bills incrementally restrict minors' access to guns. Almost all of them seem mostly harmless, requiring locking weapons away from minors, extending to age 18 the crime of  recklessly allowing minors under 14 access to firearms, making it a felony, and changing that "recklessly" standard to "negligently." Such rules should be fine if they actually are applied with factually informed standards for what is reasonable, what is reckless, and what is negligent in that particular community and household. But it's also understandable that people are vigilant about "for the children" legislation being twisted to take huge bites out of the freedom and self-sufficiency of adults and youth.

In the big picture, hunters, gun owners, religions, tanners, guardians, sunscreen police, divorce corroborators, wife-beaters and conversion therapists shouldn't feel singled out for cultural genocide. There's also legislation to begin licensing and regulating art therapists, music therapists, naturopaths, doulas and court reporters. If only because once they're state-licensed professionals, they won't be allowed to do conversion therapy.

DEAD BUT NOT FORGOTTEN (UNTIL NEXT YEAR, ANYHOW)

Who says there's no free lunch, or that the General Assembly has no family-law visionaries? One bill says child and spousal support can only be based on net income -- not on gross, and not on earning capacity or imputed income. Another says if support is going through the DCSE, the payee gets paid even when the payor doesn't pay. Sadly, despite much talk about transforming the Old Dominion, Virginia is not yet the Big Rock Candy Mountain, the place where, as Captain John Smith promised, "Evereey manne shall cavorte and bee fruetfulle and multiplye under his owne vyne and figge tree."  These two were among the very first bills to die.

A tiny and I hope redundant addition to child custody law would have urged judges to assure frequent, continuing contact with both parents -- of course only "where appropriate" (sigh). This slight whimper was then watered down to get through subcommittee, and again in committee, only to be killed anyway on the House floor, 52-41.

Next came reforms to contempt of court. One bill said that if you bring a contempt case and you lose, you can appeal the "not in contempt" finding to the Court of Appeals, fixing a disconcerting oddity in the law that has come to light in the last few years. As for judge-initiated "summary" contempt punishments, someone considered it helpful to extend the maximum jail time to 30 days. Dead, and dead.

While the great cavalcade of bills aimed at protecting the incapacitated from their own guardians almost all survived, two worthy efforts that failed said that the beneficiaries of guardianship should have a voice in their own guardianship cases, and generally should not be cut off from any other family members.

As if people didn't have enough to worry about, the House refused to let Protective Orders prohibit using electronic remote control of things in and around the victim's home. Well, we don't want protective order forms to become a long checklist suggesting new ways to abuse people.

On the sexual freedom front, much ground is being won, but many sweeping efforts are dead, for this year at least. One of them puts absolute reproductive freedom in the state constitution. Others require employers and insurers to pay for abortion, sterilization, and everything in between on the spectrum of contraception; repeal the "conscience clause" that lets religious institutions with traditional moral beliefs keep operating adoption agencies, and even redefine child abuse and neglect to include "inflicting, creating, allowing or threatening any physical or mental injury based on gender identity or sexual orientation". 

BILLS AND THEIR STATUS

PASSED BOTH HOUSES: 

  • SJ 1 Ratifies Equal Rights Amendment
  • HJ 1 Ratifies Equal Rights Amendment

GOVERNOR REQUESTED CHANGES INSTEAD OF SIGNING: 

  • SB 479 as passed by both houses: No guns for people under any protective orders, not just those for family violence. 24 hour grace period to transfer guns. Anyone under a protective order has 48 hours to certify in writing that he or she now possesses no firearms; failing to do so is a misdemeanor. The governor's amendment changes that failure to certify from a criminal misdemeanor into civil contempt of court. It makes other changes that clarify the wording but do not change the substance. The legislature has approved the governor's amendment.
  • HB 1004: No guns for people under any permanent protective orders. 24 hour grace period to transfer guns. Anyone under a protective order has 48 hours to certify in writing that she now possesses no firearms; failing to do so is a misdemeanor. The governor's amendment changes that failure to certify from a criminal misdemeanor into civil contempt of court. It makes other changes that clarify the wording but do not change the substance. The legislature has approved the governor's amendment.
  • SB 71 Expands the prohibition of weapons on school property to include daycare and preschool property, including the entire building (such as a church) that the day care or preschool is in, but only during the hours when the day care, etc. is open. Does not apply to day care operated in the residence of the provider or of one of the children. But still bans weapons in churches during day care/preschool hours. Daycare may have armed security; that is added to many existing exceptions, such as knives being used for food service or other employment, school-sponsored programs, law enforcement, unloaded and properly stored weapons, and otherwise-legal weapons kept safely in vehicles. The governor's substitute adds that the provisions governing day cares and private or religious preschools "(i) shall apply only during the operating hours of such child day center or private or religious preschool and (ii) shall not apply to any person (a) whose residence is on the property of a child day center or a private or religious preschool and (b) who possesses a firearm or other weapon prohibited under this section while in his residence." Makes a couple other wording changes, which are not substantive. The legislature has approved the governor's amendment.

APPROVED BY GOVERNOR, BECOMING LAW AS OF JULY 1, 2020: 

Divorce

Marriage

  • SB 62 Race information not required in marriage records, divorce/annulment reports, VS-4s, nor divorce statistics
  • SB 955 Civil celebration of marriage fee maximum increased to $75  

Custody/Parenting Time

  • HB 436 Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act; disclosure of identifying information when one party claims it would be dangerous: Currently, once one party claims this, it cannot be disclosed unless the court decides to in a hearing within 15 days of the filing of a pleading. This bill adds "or affidavit" after "pleading." 
  • SB 430 Each parent to have access to child-care records, regardless of custody. 
  • HB 137 Guardians ad litem for children must give certification of compliance with standards.
  • HB 861 Requires courts in custody and visitation cases to consider  "any act of violence, force, or threat as that phrase is defined in § 19.2-152.7:1 against an intimate partner or the intimate partner's child, or any history of sexual abuse or child abuse," in addition to the current requirement to consider any "history of family abuse." no earlier than 10 years prior to filing of petition.
  • SB 105 Requires courts in custody and visitation cases to consider  "any act of violence, force, or threat as that phrase is defined in § 19.2-152.7:1 against an intimate partner or the intimate partner's child, or any history of sexual abuse," in addition to the current requirement to consider any "history of family abuse." no earlier than 10 years prior to filing of petition.
  • SB 214 GALs to review and report on Individualized Education Plans in young-adult guardianship cases

Child Support

  • SB 434 Court may award either parent the right to claim child-related income tax credits as well as dependency exemptions. 
  • HB 637 "Reasonable cost of health care coverage," in law on ordering coverage as part of child support, to mean no more than 5% of providing parent's income, instead of 5% of parents' combined incomes.
  • SB 428 Any unpaid medical expenses for pregnancy and birth to be split
  • HB 690 Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF): Repeals the prohibition on increasing the amount of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) that a family receives upon the birth of a child during the period of TANF eligibility or an adult recipient is ineligible because of child support compliance issues

Spousal Support

  • SB 432 Material change of circumstances required before court may use post-divorce "reserved" jurisdiction to order spousal support, unless a contract, stipulation or court order says otherwise.
  • HB 1500 Pendente lite spousal support guidelines shall apply in Circuit Court as well as Juvenile, and are reduced slightly to account for federal tax law change taxing payors instead of payees for alimony.
  • HB 1501 Spousal support in a stipulation or contract made after 7/1/18 is still modifiable if the contract does not expressly say that it is not modifiable, or limit modifiability; but that express statement will no longer have to be in specific wording required by statute.

Adoption

  • HB 94 Must give proper notice of adoption proceeding to legal custodian.
  • HB 721 Post-adoption contact and communication agreements; parents whose parental rights were involuntarily terminated may enter such agreements.

Child Abuse/Foster Care

  • HB 778  60 instead of 45 days for "family assessments" when children alleged to be at risk.
  • HB 287 Extends from one year to three years the period of time for which the Department of Social Services must retain records of unfounded investigations of child abuse or neglect before purging.
  • HB 933 State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program created to facilitate child placements with relatives, including "fictive kin", and ensure permanency for children in foster care. "Fictive kin" means persons who are not related to a child by blood or adoption but have an established relationship with the child or his family.
  • SB 178 State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program created to facilitate child placements with relatives, including "fictive kin", and ensure permanency for children in foster care. "Fictive kin" means persons who are not related to a child by blood or adoption but have an established relationship with the child or his family.
  • SB 472 Foster care; encourages termination of parental rights improves training and information about voluntary and involuntary termination, independent living needs assessments.
  • SB 156 Fostering Futures program to provide services and support to former foster care children now between 18 and 21
  • HB 904  Public sports programs' volunteers and employees shall be mandated reporters of suspected child abuse/neglect

Domestic Violence/Protective Orders

Elder Laws/Wills/Trusts/Probate

  • HB 1378 Codifies the Uniform Directed Trust Act, allowing and governing the role of a "trust director"
  • HB 305  Fee for lodging, etc., of wills increased from low to mid-single digits
  • HB 362 Physician assistants, not just doctors, can make determinations that patient has no capacity to make informed decisions
  • HB 641 Funeral homes must accept caskets provided by third parties, but need not store them
  • SB 261 Accounts filed by fiduciaries and reports filed by guardians must be signed under oath; not to do so is a misdemeanor
  • SB 553 Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act -- rules for selling, preserving, or partitioning inherited tenancy-in-common property.
  • HB 839 Probate tax exception/refund for Virginia Beach mass shooting victims
  • HB 775 Directs Virginia College Savings Plan to analyze private retirement plans; report
  • HB 1222 When notarizing for someone in nursing home or assisted living, a passport or driver's license that expired in the last 5 years may be used to prove identity.
  • SB 700 Wills must be indexed in the name of executor named in the will
  • SB 355 Assisted living facilities; audio-visual recording of residents to be studied, stakeholder-grouped, then regulated.
  • SB 1072  Prohibits the court from appointing, as guardian or conservator for an incapacitated person, any attorney who is engaged to represent the person who is asking the court to order the guardianship, whether representing them in that case or in anything else. Includes other attorneys or employees of such attorney's law firm.
  • HB 887 ABLE Savings Trusts may be passed to a survivor.

Procedure

  • HB 1378 Pleadings, motions, and other papers with missing or defective signatures are void unless defect is promptly cured, or unless there is no timely objection to the defect. 
  • HB 834 Courts may permit notice of an order of publication to be given by electronic means in addition to or in lieu of publication in a newspaper
  • HB 60 District court substitute judges will retain power to sign final orders for 14 days after hearing a case.
  • HB 780 Courts to accept copies of proofs process-service in place of originals
  • HB 1346 Makes it easier to get attorney fees paid out of money that is under control of the court
  • SB 451 Juvenile and domestic relations district court; awards of attorney fees shall be determined based on all relevant factors, not just the relative financial ability of the parties.
  • SB 229 Pleadings, motions, and other papers with missing or defective signatures are void unless defect is promptly cured, or unless there is no timely objection to the defect.
  • SB 771 Interlocutory appeals to Court of Appeals: Just listing it here to note that it does not apply to family law cases.
  • SB 693 Common-law defense of intra-family immunity abolished in wrongful death cases.
  • SB 408 Notices of civil case appeals shall not have a hearing until parties have been served or waived service

Sexual Abuse/Assault

  • SB 724 Misdemeanor sexual offenses; increases statute of limitations, when victim was a minor.
  • HB 475 Virginia sexual assault forensic examiner coordination program; established, report.
  • HB 870 Sexual abuse: 10-year statute of limitations. keeps 20-year when victim was a minor
  • SB 297 Creates Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Fund, administered by Department of Social Services, in coordination with Department of Health and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, to develop and support programs that prevent sexual and domestic violence;  promote healthy practices related to relationships, sexuality, and social-emotional development; and counteract the factors associated with the initial perpetration of sexual and domestic violence.
  • HB 298 Misdemeanor sexual offenses; increases statute of limitations, where the victim is a minor.
  • SB 579 Streamlines & reorganizes Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry process; lower-level offenders will no longer have to register annually.
  • SB 42 Sexual abuse via false representation or subterfuge that is part of a massage by a massage therapist, a medical procedure, or physical therapy, shall be aggravated sexual battery. Regardless of victim's age or competence. 1 to 20 years, fine of up to $100,000.00.

Child Safety

  • HB 1083 Minors; allowing access to firearms, Class 1 misdemeanor recklessly allowing access under age 14; Class 3 misdemeanor for recklessly leaving a loaded and unsecure firearm around a child under 14; no unsupervised use under age 12.
  • HB 402 Public school lock-down drills, frequency, exemptions for kindergarteners.
  • HB 578 Smoking; illegal in motor vehicle with a minor under 15 present (current law only covers minors under 8)
  • SB 173 Stun weapons; prohibits possession on school property, exempts holder of concealed handgun permit, but only if it remains in vehicle
  • SB 593 All firearms in a licensed in-home day care provider's home must be stored unloaded and locked up.
  • HB 600 In-home day cares must store guns and ammo separately, and locked up in a container, cabinet, etc.
  • HB 38 Tanning facilities prohibited for minors.
  • HB 799 Day cares must test all drinkable water sources for lead.
  • HB 1080 Firearms or other weapons; unauthorized to possess on school property.

        But the same bill also adds a sweeping statement with no such exceptions at the beginning of existing Code Section 18.2-308.2:2: "All firearm sales or transfers, in whole or in part in the Commonwealth, including a sale or transfer where either the purchaser or seller or transferee or transferor is in the Commonwealth, shall be subject to a criminal history record information check unless specifically exempted by state or federal law." 

        I for one am completely unsure which section is supposed to trump the other. The exceptions clause is framed only as an exception to that particular Code section, and includes the caveat, "unless otherwise prohibited by state or federal law". Such a "state law" would likely include the existing section with its new amendment requiring a lengthy background check process for all transfers, no exceptionsBut that section, in turn, says, "unless specifically exempted by state or federal law." Would that include an exemption whose text is only written to apply within its own Code section? Seems like a chicken-or-egg problem. Although I would hope that any future interpretation would conclude that the legislature could not have intended a ten-point list of exceptions to be completely inoperable.

Education

  • HB 410 Parents must be notified when student gets  literacy or "Response to Intervention" screening and services
  • HB 256 Criminal disorderly conduct does not include things students do in school, on bus, or at school-related activities
  • SB 3 Disorderly conduct; student not guilty of disorderly conduct in a public place if incident occurred on school property, on school bus, or at school sponsored event.
  • HB 257 Schools don't have to contact police about all conduct that might be a misdemeanor
  • SB 729 Schools don't have to contact police about all conduct that might be a misdemeanor
  • SB 186 IEP teams must consider appropriate instruction about sexual health, self-restraint, self-protection, respect for personal privacy, and personal boundaries
  • SB 238 Increases required kindergarten hours 83%
  • HB 999 Schools must have epinephrine constantly accessible, along with staff trained to administer it 
  • SB 44 Lets students keep and bear sunscreen without a doctor's note, etc.
  • HB 1012 Early childhood care and education; establishes comprehensive public-private system basically like the school system, and operated and regulated by the Department of Education.

Health

  • HB 134 IEP teams must consider appropriate instruction about sexual health, self-restraint, self-protection, respect for personal privacy, and personal boundaries
  • HB 687 Doulas to be state-regulated, registered and certified
  • SB 423 Health insurance; mandated coverage for hearing aids for minors.
  • SB 213 Study increasing the Personal Maintenance Allowance for people receiving Medicaid, etc.

Mental Health

  • S.B. 713 Establishes state licensing for art therapists; emergency regulations shall issue to implement this.
  • SB 633 Music therapy to be strictly licensed and regulated
  • S.B. 1046 Adds clinical social workers to the list of providers who can disclose or recommend the withholding of patient records.
  • HB 308 Students' excused absences for mental and behavioral health reasons, DOE to create guidelines
  • HB 42 Health care providers must be trained in screening patients for prenatal and postpartum depression

Military Families

  • HB 967 Military service members' spouses: expediting the issuance of professional credentials
  • HB 143 Unemployment compensation for leaving employment to follow military spouse

LGBT Issues

  • HB 145 Statewide minimum guidelines on treatment of transgender students to be developed; public elementary and secondary schools must adopt or exceed them.
  • HB 386 Conversion therapy: state-licensed health care providers, and other state-licensed professionals who do counseling, must not do conversion therapy for minors. No state benefits, funds, contracts or grants to any entity that does it for minors.
  • SB 161 Statewide minimum guidelines on treatment of transgender students to be developed; public elementary and secondary schools must adopt or exceed them.
  • HB 1490 Repeals laws against same-sex marriages and civil unions.
  • SB 17 Repeals laws against same-sex marriages and civil unions.
  • SB 657 New birth certificates to show change of sex: an affidavit of appropriate gender-transition treatment from a health care provider may be required, but no evidence of any medical procedure shall be required
  • SB 245 Conversion therapy: state-licensed health care providers, and other state-licensed professionals who do counseling, must not do conversion therapy for minors. No state benefits, funds, contracts or grants to any entity that does it for minors.
  • HB1041 New birth certificate for sex change may require proof of clinically appropriate treatment, but shall not require any medical procedure.
  • HB 623 Gender-neutral terms throughout the Virginia Code, including laws that punish incest, defaming a lady's "virtue and chastity", or leaving one's wife in a "bawdy place", whether that is for the purpose of prostitution or for "unlawful sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus"; removes prohibitions on same-sex marriage and civil unions. Seems a bit of a mixed bag for the cause of gay rights.

Abortion

  • HB 980 Abortion: Informed consent no longer includes ultrasound, provision of specified information, or offer to review certain printed materials; physician's assistants and nurse practitioners can perform abortions, abortion facilities will not have to comply with regulations for hospitals.
  • SB 733 Abortion: Informed consent no longer includes ultrasound, provision of specified information, or offer to review certain printed materials; physician's assistants and nurse practitioners can perform abortions, abortion facilities will not have to comply with regulations for hospitals.

Criminal

  • HB 1071 Legalizes profanity in public.
  • HB 245 Repeals the crime of fornication, i.e., voluntary sexual intercourse by an unmarried person.
  • SB 378 Computer trespass; expands the crime. No longer requires "malicious intent" if done "through intentionally deceptive means and without authority." Eliminates "without owner's authorization" element in prohibition on installing keylogging software "on the computer of another" -- the "without authority" element still applies, but that element is only an alternative to the "malicious intent" requirement.

DEAD (BY VARIOUS METHODS AND EUPHEMISMS):

Custody/Parenting Time

  • HB 485 Requires courts in custody and visitation cases to "when appropriate, assure frequent and continuing contact with each parent" -- BUT WATERED DOWN EVEN FURTHER TO MERELY ADD "when appropriate, frequent and continuing contact with each parent" TO THE LIST OF FACTORS TO CONSIDER. And even that was apparently too much for a majority of the House, who, in a move I haven't noticed before, approved the committee substitute for the bill but then voted against "engrossing" the bill instead of voting against passing it. I assume that kills it.
  • HB 350 Requires courts in custody and visitation cases to "when appropriate, assure frequent and continuing contact with each parent"
  • SB 571 Grandparent visitation when parent dead: factors court must consider, including parties' motivations
  • SB 431 Mental health professionals may not restrict parents' access to health records, or refuse to testify, as a condition of providing services.
  • SB 61 Using cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil on doctor's written advice shall not be the sole reason for denying or restricting custody, visitation, adoption or foster parenthood.
  • SB 872 Circuit or district court may appoint GAL in custody or visitation case, subject to standards, payment governed by Code § 16.1-267 which seems to provide for extremely low payment and to be designed for various other kinds of cases.

Support

  • SB 502 When child support is paid through Department of Social Services, the Department must pay the recipient even if the payor does not pay.
  • HB 82 Spousal support to be based net income, not gross; earning capacity may no longer be considered when determining spousal or child support; spousal support shall not exceed payor's net income.

Marriage

  • SB 19 Records of marriages shall not require identification of race.
  • HB 863 Person to perform marriage may be designated by marriage license applicant instead of by a judge's order; may perform it anywhere in the state; no bond required for such persons, nor for Quakers performing marriages; record of marriage may be filed by one of the newlyweds or the celebrant; no jail for performing unlicensed marriage or issuing unlawful marriage license.

Divorce

  • HB 291 Uniform Collaborative Law Act
  • SB 844 Computer trespass; expands the crime. No longer requires "malicious intent" if done "through intentionally deceptive means and without authority." Eliminates "without owner's authorization" element in prohibition on installing keylogging software "on the computer of another" -- the "without authority" element still applies, but that element is only an alternative to the "malicious intent" requirement. [Incorporated with SB 378]
  • HB 1530 No-fault divorce grounds corroboration requirement repealed

Adoption

Child Abuse/Foster Care

  • HB 580 Child abuse and neglect includes inflicting, creating, allowing or threatening any physical or mental injury based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • HB 289 Requires that interviews of child victims of alleged sexual abuse be conducted as a forensic interview at the local child advocacy center
  • HB 252 Causing or encouraging acts rendering children sexually abused; penalty.
  • HB 288 Criminal sexual assault; definition of sexual abuse, complaining witness under age 13
  • SB 32 Corporal punishment of a child with an object; penalty.
  • HB 920 State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program created to facilitate child placements with relatives, including "fictive kin", and ensure permanency for children in foster care. "Fictive kin" means persons who are not related to a child by blood or adoption but have an established relationship with the child or his family.
  • HB 809 Welfare department must investigate any report of child abuse and neglect by any "relative by blood, marriage, or adoption, caretaker, or other person with supervisory control over the child or responsible for his care or ... person who resides or is regularly present in the same household as the child."
  • HB 1051 Repeals "conscience clause" that allowed child-placing agencies to refuse to perform, assist with, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any child placements that violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies.  Prohibits the Department of Social Services from contracting with or providing funds, directly or indirectly, to any child-placing agency that discriminates against the child or otherwise eligible prospective foster or adoptive parents on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or status as a veteran.
  • HB 673 Cruelty to children; increases penalty to a Class 4 felony.
  • SB 878 Court-appointed counsel for parents in child welfare cases to get additional compensation in the very low three figures
  • SB 501 Adoption and foster care home studies may be done by anyone who has completed the training program; regulations to be issued.

Sexual Abuse/Assault

  • SB 440 Electronic transmission of sexually explicit visual material by minor: misdemeanor, if the perpetrator is the only person in picture or if less than 10 pictures of another minor; alternative sentencing, rehabilitation programs, community service, avoiding permanent record or sex offender status.
  • HB 462 Certified sexual assault nurse examiners; Secretary of HHR to study shortage.
  • HB 251 Prostitution-related crimes; minors, including taking minors or spouse to "a bawdy place", expands sex offender registry, trafficking, pimping, racketeering

Domestic Violence/Protective Orders

  • HB 1001 Assault and battery against a family or household member; prior conviction, term of confinement.
  • HB 628 Lets courts sanction people for filing certain claims in retaliation for, or in order to discourage, actions taken by victims of violence to obtain an order of protection or to pursue criminal charges. This "includes any claim of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution, or abuse of process that is filed in retaliation for or in order to chill, discourage, or limit any legitimate action taken by a victim of (i) family abuse; (ii) an act of violence, force, or threat; (iii) stalking; or (iv) sexual assault to obtain any order of protection or criminal charges based on such family abuse, act of violence, force, or threat, stalking, or sexual assault. Any such pleadings found by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack either justification in existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law shall be presumed to have been filed for an improper purpose."
  • SB 76 No guns for people under any protective orders, not just those for family violence. But keeps 24 hour grace period to transfer guns.
  • SB 145 Assault, assault and battery, or bodily wounding of a person protected by a protective order is a Class 6 felony. Currently, this is only if it results in serious bodily injury.
  • HB 159 Protective order may prohibit using any electronic device to remotely control anything in or around petitioner's home
  • HB 1077  Lets minors petition for a protective order on their own behalf
  • HB 498 Anyone with a permanent protective order will get a wallet-sized "Hope Card" with basic info about the order and the people it protects and restricts.
  • SB 82 Protective order; violation of order, armed with firearm or other deadly weapon.
  • SB 89 Protective orders; violation of order while armed with firearm or other deadly weapon, etc.
  • SB 372 Protective orders; possession of firearms, surrender or transfer of firearms, penalty.
  • SB 574 Protective orders; petitioning court on behalf of incapacitated persons.
  • SB 490 No guns after conviction of stalking, domestic violence or sex assault; criteria for restoring gun rights.
  • HB 867 Single-sex domestic violence shelters allowed.
  • HB 78 No guns after even one misdemeanor household-member assault & battery conviction; criteria for restoring gun rights.
  • HB 470 Protective orders; non-lawyer social services department employees can petition court for protective orders on behalf of incapacitated persons
  • HB 625 Redefines family abuse, as grounds for protective order, to include identity theft
  • HB 1288 No guns after two misdemeanor household-member assault and battery convictions; criteria for restoring gun rights.
  • HB 1182 Protective order may include temporary spousal support and restitution for property damage, medical bills and other financial loss caused by abuse.
  • SB 534 Anyone with a permanent protective order will get a wallet-sized "Hope Card" with basic info about the order and the people it protects and restricts.

Child Safety

  • HB 939 Public high schools must teach firearm safety education, and must do so without firearms.
  • S.B. 129 Public high schools must teach firearm safety education, and must do so without firearms.
  • HB 955 Children's online privacy protection; release of personal information prohibited.
  • SB 16 Assault firearms and certain firearm magazines; prohibiting sale, transport, etc., penalties.
  • SB 18 Firearms; restricting access under age 18, purchase under age 21
  • HB 72 Allowing access to firearms by children; recklessly leaving loaded, unsecured firearm. [incorporated into HB 1083]
  • SB 75 Minors; allowing access to firearms, penalty.
  • HB 463 Minors; allowing access to firearms [incorporated into HB 1083]
  • SB 117 Day care operated in homes needs license if caring for three or more children (current law is five)
  • SB 581 Minors; allowing access to firearms, Class 6 felony. Limits
  • HB 356 Child labor; employment of children on tobacco farms
  • HB 675 License restrictions for minors; use of handheld personal communications devices.
  • HB 853 Firearms; recklessly allowing access to certain persons (including minors, but with major exceptions, see Va. Code § 18.2-308.7)

Elder Law/Wills/Trusts/Probate

  • HB 736 State estate tax reinstated, unless most assets are in a working farm or closely held business
  • HB 96 Powers of attorney must be signed in presence of a witness or notary public
  • HB 76  In suits on written contracts subject to 5-year statute of limitations; if a potential party is a missing person judicially declared dead and the cause of action accrued after they went missing, executor of estate has one year from the declared-dead order to file suit.
  • HB 862 Guardianship; limits on how guardian may restrict communication with close relatives and friends; procedure and standards for courts to resolve disputes about such communication; guardian who restricts communication in bad faith or in his own interest may have to pay others' costs.
  • HB 304 Guardianship and conservatorship petitions must include identifying characteristics/description of the respondent, which shall be included in the information sent to the Criminal Records Exchange.
  • SB 352 Encourages avoiding guardianship and conservatorship when a "supported decision-making agreement" is feasible instead; GALs in adult guardianship cases must consider and report on that alternative.
  • HB 841 Guardianship suits: person it's about shall have right to counsel and to participate and be heard. If not represented, counsel must be appointed. 
  • HB 1321 Supported Decision-Making Act: allows an adult with an intellectual or developmental disability to enter into an agreement with another person, called a "supporter," who will assist the adult in making decisions to manage his affairs, giving them a less restrictive means of receiving assistance than being appointed a guardian or conservator by a court.
  • SB 308 Accounts filed by fiduciaries and reports filed by guardians must be signed under oath under penalty of felony perjury
  • SB 697 Execution of wills; requires the witnesses to be disinterested, meaning having no personal or beneficial interest in the will. Being a fiduciary, guardian or counsel does not prevent someone from being disinterested.
  • SB 359 Deed of gift of real estate requires title search for recordation
  • HB 331 No one particular clinical diagnosis automatically means you're incapacitated.
  • SB 1042 Wills; codifies common-law presumption of undue influence. There is a rebuttable presumption of undue influence on a testator if the testator (1) was mentally feeble when his will was made, (2) named a beneficiary who stood in a relationship of confidence or dependence to the testator; and (3) previously had expressed an intention to make a contrary disposition of his property.

Procedure

  • S.B. 663 All health practitioners must assist and cooperate with their patients' litigation and attorneys
  • SB 1060 For good cause shown or upon agreement of all parties, the court may dismiss a case without prejudice.  Plaintiff may re-file within the original period of limitation.
  • SB 334 Court Reporters to be licensed and regulated
  • HB 712 Lets legal notices appear in online publications [Incorporated into HB 588
  • HB 588 Lets legal notices appear in online publications
  • HB 95 Decisions that a person is not in contempt of court can be appealed to the Court of Appeals.
  • HJ 22 Study deficient/outdated training of substitute and retired district court judges
  • HB 163 Contempt of court "summary punishment" -- increases max penalty to 30 days
  • HB 1206 Court may order state payment of GAL for good cause shown in any civil case.
  • HB 401 Court-appointed counsel for parents in child welfare cases to get additional compensation in the very low three figures
  • SB 529 Slight change to hearsay exception for past statements by a person who is now dead or incompetent.

Education

  • HB 158 Tax deduction for K-12 school tuition or home instruction expenses
  • HB 332 Students must receive "rapid automatized naming" and "rapid alternating stimulus" (RAN/RAS") tests for dyslexia and other reading difficulties
  • HB 678 Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts
  • HB 1277 Public schools; reduces number of Standards of Learning assessments, report.
  • SB 390 Reduces Standards of Learning assessments to the federally-required minimum
  • HB 926 Income tax, state; credit for employer contributions to Virginia College Savings Plan accounts.
  • HB 223 Education, recommendations for improving civic education.
  • HB 197 Financial literacy objectives; study incorporating them into math SOL
  • HB 455 TANF (welfare) receiving families to get community college scholarships in pilot program

Health

  • HB 823 Health Insurance Premium Payment program coverage expanded
  • S.B. 858 to license and regulate naturopathic doctors
  • SB 104 Vaccinations and immunizations; certain minors given authority to consent.
  • HJ 18 Universal health care; study cost of implementing in the Commonwealth
  • HB 529 Universal health care; study options for financing.
  • SB 946 State medical-assistance funding for doulas' services.

Mental Health

  • HB 40 Public schools must have mental health break spaces
  • SB 315 Emergency rooms must screen for depression, provide info/referrals

LGBT Issues

  • HB 966 Limits regulation of Conversion Therapy to protect "the fundamental right of an individual to select for himself, based on an informed and voluntary choice, a form of counseling that involves nothing more than 'talk therapy,' regardless of the age of the individual, including in situations where the patient is seeking such counseling to assist him in reducing or eliminating unwanted attractions or behaviors or concerns about gender identity."

Military Families

  • HB 930 Military service members' and veterans' spouses: expediting the issuance of professional credentials [Was incorporated into HB 967]

Abortion

  •  SJ 2 Constitutional amendment; right to personal reproductive liberty
  • HB 1473 Surrogacy contract provisions requiring abortion or selective reduction unenforceable, void, against state public policy.
  • S.B. 635 Right to reproductive choice, fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception or abortion. Even for persons under state control or supervision. Any state or local official charged with violating this can be sued in state or federal court, for injunction or damages, by any person or entity.
  • SB 21 Abortion; repeal of parental/judicial consent requirement for minors, and other restrictions (incorporated into SB733)
  • HB 1445 All health insurance plans must cover abortion, contraception and many other "reproductive health" and women's health services. Extremely narrow exception for "religious employers".
  • HB 526 All health insurance plans must cover contraception and many other "reproductive health" and women's health services. Covering abortion is required when mother's life endangered or after rape or incest. Extremely narrow exception for "religious employers".
  • SB 917 All health insurance plans, including state ones, must cover abortion, voluntary sterilization, genetic mutation screening/counseling, domestic violence screening/counseling, STDs, all forms of contraception, and many other "reproductive health" and women's health services. A very few strictly-defined "religious employers" might get an exception from abortion-funding requirement.
  • SB 920 Surrogacy contract provisions requiring, or prohibiting, abortion or selective reduction are unenforceable, void, against state public policy.

Criminal


Great line by the Virginia Supreme Court's in-house philosopher (and perhaps the next U.S. S.Ct. Justice)

"We state the factual allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the insurers, giving them the benefit of all reasonable inferences that arise from those allegations. However, we do not accept the veracity of conclusions of law camouflaged as factual allegations or inferences." 

-- Justice Arthur Kelsey of the Virginia Supreme Court in AGCS Marine Insurance Company v. Arlington County, June 15, 2017.


Teasingest headline ever in Virginia Lawyers Weekly: "No-fault divorce law unconstitutional, judge rules"

No-fault divorce law unconstitutional, judge rules

 September 9, 2019 - Virginia Lawyers Weekly

(Actually, what Fairfax judge Steven Shannon ruled was that in a husband-free marriage, it was unconstitutional for the law to require that a “husband and wife” live apart in order to qualify for a divorce. He said he could invalidate the law providing for no-fault divorces until the legislature fixed it, but it would be more consistent with the law's purpose for him to extend its "benefits" to include same-sex couples instead.)


I've heard lawyers say some evil things, but this is the absolute worst:

'... Lawyer Bruce Christensen confirmed that the author has never met the boy, but denied that the youngster has expressed an interest in seeing his dad or is suffering from his absence.

“This is the first time I’m hearing about this,” Christensen said. “When a child never had a father, how would he know what to miss?

“This is no different from the hundreds of thousands of other children who have to live without a parent.”'

‘NO LOVE’ CHILD OF BUCKLEY


Governor approves 11 of 12 bills reforming family law, offers substitute for domestic violence bill

GOVERNOR PROPOSED SUBSTITUTE INSTEAD OF APPROVING:

SUBSTITUTE FOR:

  • HB 2042 Assault and battery against a family or household member; prior conviction; mandatory minimum term of confinement. Provides that upon a conviction for assault and battery against a family or household member, where it is alleged in the warrant, petition, information, or indictment on which a person is convicted, that such person has been previously convicted of an offense that occurred within a period of 20 years of the instant offense against a family or household member of (i) assault and battery against a family or household member, (ii) malicious wounding or unlawful wounding, (iii) aggravated malicious wounding, (iv) malicious bodily injury by means of a substance, (v) strangulation, or (vi) an offense under the law of any other jurisdiction which has the same elements of any of the above offenses is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and the sentence of such person shall include a mandatory minimum term of confinement of 60 days. Amended, PREVIOUSLY final version in Conference report.

 

APPROVED BY GOVERNOR:

  • HB 1945/SB 1541 No-fault divorce; waiver of service of process may be signed before suit filed. Clarifies that in the case of a no-fault divorce, waivers of service of process may occur within a reasonable time prior to or after the suit is filed, provided that a copy of the complaint is attached to such waiver, or otherwise provided to the defendant, and the final decree of divorce as proposed by the complainant is signed by the defendant. Where a defendant has waived service of process and, where applicable, notice, the bill further permits depositions to be taken, affidavits to be given, and all papers related to the divorce proceeding to be filed contemporaneously. Bill text as passed Senate and House.
  • SB 1144 Guardianship; annual report filed by guardian. Provides that, upon receiving notice from the local department of social services that a guardian has not filed the required annual report within the prescribed time limit, the court may issue a summons or rule to show cause why the guardian has failed to file such report.
  • SB 1307 Uniform Transfers to Minors Act; transfer of property; age 25. Permits a transferor to transfer property under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act to an individual under the age of 21 to be paid, conveyed, or transferred to such individual upon his attaining 25 years of age, unless the minor attaining age 21 years of age delivers a written request therefor to the custodian. Under current law, such property must be paid, conveyed, or transferred upon the individual's attaining 18 years of age, or 21 years of age if specifically requested by the custodian.
  • SB 1186 Financial institution; payment or delivery of small asset by affidavit, check, etc. Provides that a financial institution accepting a small asset that is a check, draft, or other negotiable instrument presented by an affidavit is discharged from all claims for the amount accepted.
  • HB 1979 Assisted conception; amends statute to provide gender-neutral terminology, etc. Allows an unmarried individual to be an intended parent, paralleling the ability of an unmarried individual to adopt under the adoption statutes. Allows for the use of an embryo subject to the legal or contractual custody of an intended parent in a surrogacy arrangement. 
  • HB 1988 Military retirement benefits; marital share. Requires that the determination of military retirement benefits in a divorce be made in accordance with the federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (10 U.S.C. 1408 et seq.).
  • HB 2059 Nonpayment of child support; amount of arrearage paid; time period to pay arrearage; repayment schedule; suspension of driver's license. Provides that an individual who is delinquent in child support payments or has failed to comply with a subpoena, summons, or warrant relating to paternity or child support proceedings is entitled to a judicial hearing if he makes a written request within 30 days from service of a notice of intent to suspend or renew his driver's license. Current law provides such an entitlement if such request is made within 10 days from such notice. The bill further allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew a driver's license or terminate a license suspension imposed on an individual if such individual has reached an agreement with the Department of Social Services to satisfy the child support payment delinquency within a 10-year period and has made at least one payment of at least five percent of the total delinquency or $600, whichever is less, as opposed to whichever is greater under current law, under such agreement. The bill further provides that, where such a repayment agreement has been entered into and such an individual has failed to comply with such agreement, the Department of Motor Vehicles shall suspend or refuse to renew such individual's driver's license until it has received certification from the Department of Social Services that such individual has entered into a subsequent agreement to pay within a period of seven years and has paid the lesser amount, as opposed to greater amount under current law, of at least one payment of $1,200 or seven percent, as opposed to five percent under current law, of the current delinquency. The bill provides that an individual who fails to comply with such a subsequent agreement may enter into a new agreement if such individual has made a payment in the lesser amount, as opposed to the greater amount under current law, of $1,800 or 10 percent, as opposed to five percent under current law, and agrees to a repayment schedule of not more than seven years, which is consistent with the timeframe provided by the current law. Amended text as passed House and Senate.
  • HB 2317 Custody and visitation orders; exchange of child; history of family abuse; law-enforcement officers. Provides that in custody and visitation cases, at the request of either party, the court may order that the exchange of a child take place at an appropriate meeting place. Amended  text as passed House and Senate.
  • HB 2542 Temporary delegation of parental or legal custodial powers; child-placing agency. Allows a parent or legal custodian of a minor to delegate to another person by a properly executed power of attorney any powers regarding care, custody, or property of the minor for a period not exceeding 180 days. The bill provides that a parent or legal custodian who is a service member, as defined in the bill, may delegate such powers for a period of longer than 180 days while on active duty service, but specifies that such a period is not to exceed such active duty service plus 30 days. The bill provides that any such power of attorney shall be signed by all persons with authority to make decisions concerning the child, the person to whom powers are delegated under the power of attorney, and a representative of a licensed child-placing agency that assists parents and legal guardians with the process of delegating parental and legal custodial powers of their children. The bill specifies that such licensed child-placing agency will be subject to background checks and must develop and implement written policies for certain services and provide staff and provider training. The bill further requires that any person to whom any such powers are delegated shall comply with background check requirements established by regulations of the Board of Social Services or otherwise provided by law.
  • HB 1944/SB 1542 Civil actions; determination of indigency.  In a no-fault divorce proceeding, a person who is a current recipient of a state or federally funded public assistance program for the indigent shall not be subject to fees and costs, and  shall certify to the receipt of such benefits under oath.  House substitute agreed to by Senate.
  • SB 1758 Specific findings of fact; Custody and visitation cases; jurisdiction of court. Allows a circuit or district court in which there is a proceeding related to the custody or visitation of a child, upon the request of any party, to make any finding of fact required by state or federal law to permit such minor to apply for a state or federal benefit. Passed with House subcommittee amendments and substitutesSenate amendments, Conference amendments.

Using marital contracts to stabilize marriages: past, present, and possible

 Über ehestablisierende Rechtstechniken

On Marriage-Stabilizing Legal Techniques

 

by Prof. Dr. Hans Hattenhauer

81px-Prof._Dr._Hans_Hattenhauer_(Kiel_77.824)
 
Christian-Albrechts-Universitaet zu Kiel,
Christian-Albrechts-University, City of Kiel

Zeitschrift fuer das gesamte Familienrecht (FamZ) 1989, page 225 et. seq.

Summary and Explanation by Antje S. Heinemann, J.D., with assistance by John Crouch, J.D., and Susan Winston, J.D. candidate, University of Miami School of Law

 

In this article Prof. Hattenhauer deals with the need to stabilize marriages and the legal instruments and techniques to do so.

As marriage is a lifelong relationship it is always endangered by its duration. Because of the changes of various circumstances such as society, the spouses’ financial situation and economic development/expansion etc., marriage has lost a lot of its functions and is therefore today even more deemed to be only a short-term rather than a long-term “operation”.

But how have humans in history of mankind been able to make marriages work as a long-term relationship and make this long-term relationship an ideal of a marriage? Knowing that trust of only biological/emotional forces and the spouses’ good will are not enough to make a marriage a “long-term operation”, former cultures have stabilized it with various techniques.

As Hattenhauer states that there is up to now hardly no fundamental scientific research on this issue, he limits his point of view in his article to marriage-stabilizing legal techniques. This makes him first think of some very general questions such as: What is society’s moral understanding and what is universally valid? What is the general social consensus that courts must respect? At what point is the jurisdiction exceeding its authority when it determines what the ideal of marriage?

To find answers he works with various theses:

Thesis 1:

Marriage is the foundation of family. Family is based on marriage and – at best – includes children. In contrast to this, any other model of a “family” such as homosexual cohabitation, a commune or heterosexual cohabitation without being married is not legally binding and it can therefore not achieve the same privileges as a marriage.

Thesis 2:

Marriage is an “enterprise for maintenance”. As society has changed into an industrial society and the welfare state has been established, marriage has lost a lot of its maintenance character and functions. However, it has never totally ceased to be an “enterprise for maintenance”, which is shown by the unbroken importance of support payments. This support for spouses and children will never be completely replaced by government.

Thesis 3:

In addition to this financial “maintenance”, marriages also give enormous personal and emotional support. This support is not replaceable at all. Today, this support is even more appreciated than ever before.

Thesis 4:

Up to now the maintenance character of marriage (both financial and emotional) has been obvious. After the long-term period of upbringing the children the period of growing old usually began. The parents then needed support and care-taking themselves.

But increased life expectancy, both parents’ working, and the social security system have created a completely new period between these two periods. During this phase the spouses are usually not aware of their mutual maintenance obligations and therefore the duration of marriage is weakened. As also sexual morality has changed, marriage has furthermore lost a lot of its sexual maintenance character.

Thesis 5:

The ecclesiastical sacrament of marriage has been replaced by the civil marriage. Today, marriage is legally understood as a contract.

Thesis 6:

Although we see today all these changes to the maintenance character of a marriage, there is still a huge private interest for stability in marriages. It is important for governmental authorities to assure a process of stabilization, as stable marriages ensure the people’s life quality.

Thesis 7:

People entering a marriage often have to make sacrifices such as giving up parts of their personal freedom or privacy. As some kind of compensation the state is giving them married privileges and protection by law. Art. 6 GG, (i.e. Grundgesetz, the German constitution) for example, protects family and marriage. To give the same bonuses to other, less legally binding, types of relationships won’t be justified. These bonuses are such as, but are not limited to, support, inheritance, child custody, and in case of dissolution of marriage, a system to solve conflicts as the law determines alimony, support, division of pension rights etc.

Thesis 8:

As, because of the great public interest in long-term marriages, smart states have developed certain marriage-stabilizing policies, they have laid down marriage and family in the constitution.

Thesis 9:

The history of occidental marriage has been the history of the privatization of marriage. Marriage has become more and more a subject of the couple’s dispositions. Today spouses can determine nearly everything regarding their marital relationship. Since spouses can do so, such agreements, their compliance and their enforcement, need protection by the government.

Thesis 10:

The process of privatization is neither irreversible nor deplorable. Privatization is justified as an act of liberation from governmental constraints.

Thesis 11:

After the breakdown of the middle-class model of marriage (after 1968) as the “moral monopoly,” we find today a pluralism of ideals of marriage. The question today is: What kind of law do we need in times of pluralism, which does justice to all models and groups? What kind of law does not impose too much stabilization to the ones not interested, and does not refuse to give stability to the ones who ask for it? How can the government take care of marriages and create a law that meets all interests? How does a catalog of acknowledged ideals of marriages look like?

In the history of marriage, the non-formal (regarding the entering and dissolution of marriage) Roman marriage, the “matrimonium liberum”, has been surprisingly durable. Alfred Soellner has stated that the reason for this stability was the use of a certain legal technique: the dowry, the “dos”. The dowry was the father-in-law’s contribution to the husband in a considerable amount of money to give the marriage a binding character. The marriage and the financial contribution were strictly connected. Conversely, only an endowed marriage was acknowledged as a valid marriage. A marriage without dowry instead was regarded as void.

The dowry was highly important to wives. It was so important that the father-in-law sometimes had to impose it on the husband. The financial contribution was also a matter of the wife’s reputation. A woman who was not endowed was contemptuous. If the family was poor, the daughter sometimes had to go to the brothel.

The purpose of the dowry was to stabilize the marriage: The profits made out of the financial contribution were used to maintain the family, especially during the first years. The ongoing sanctions in case of conflicts guaranteed the existence of the marriage. Both spouses had to take care of the marriage to be entitled to the benefits of the financial contribution. In case of adultery or filing a divorce, e.g., the wife lost all her entitlements for the return of the contribution in total. If the husband wanted to commit adultery or wanted to get divorced he had to be afraid of losing the dowry, which helped to keep him from doing so. It was also possible for the wife to determine a contractual penalty for the husband, which he had to pay if he had a concubine. In general one could say: He who wanted to give his wife back had to give the contribution back.

According to Hattenhauer this was the reason why marriages without dowry had always been more endangered by divorce than others, and why the Romans preferred marriages within one’s station. A poor wife could be easily rejected but in case of a high dowry the rejection always meant a bad loss. On the other hand, a marriage with a high dowry was sometimes quite difficult to handle for a poor husband, because then he had to endure the moods of his rich wife. Thus, the Romans found the ideal marriage where there was a dowry and the financial background had been equal.

 Hattenhauer then describes the marriage in the rabbinical-talmudical law and states that it was quite similar to the Roman model: Without a trousseau a woman was not allowed to marry. If necessary the money was taken from the community’s funds for the poor. In addition to that, there was also the dowry (which could be in property or money). The dowry always continued to be the property of the wife but was administrated by her husband, who often had a right of usufruct of it. The couples necessarily had to settle upon a marital agreement. Beside certain other agreements the spouses agreed about the “Ketubah”, which was the sometimes considerably high amount of money the husband had to pay in case of the dissolution of marriage (divorce or death). The amount had to be in accordance with a minimum sum and depended on the amount of the dowry. A marriage without a “Ketubah” was not completely valid and considered as a concubinage.

 Hattenhauer states that both dowry and “Ketubah” stabilized marriages. As the capital stock usually was invested in the husband’s enterprises, his cravings for divorce were reasonably minimized. On the other hand a mean wife, whose “Ketubah” had been high enough, could sometimes leave the husband desperate. To explain this dilemma Hattenhauer cites the case of Rabbi Nachman: He couldn’t get divorced from his mean wife because the “Ketubah” was too high, but his disciples finally collected the money to pay him off and gave him freedom.

The purpose of the “Ketubah” to stabilize marriages was clear: The rabbis created the “Ketubah” to make it more difficult for the husband to leave his wife.

Hattenhauer then examines the German model and states that the German law did not adopt the Roman model schematic. In the 17th – 19th century it was held that the common marital agreements in Germany didn’t comply with the narrow frame of the Roman “pacta dotalia” because they were not limited only to financial transactions. Up to the effective date of the BGB, (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, i.e. Civil Code), January 1900, the Germans and Europeans practiced marriage-stabilizing by using various kinds of marital agreements. They had various names, varieties, and a high practical importance. They had such names as pactum dotale, pactum nuptiale, Ehepakt, Ehegedinge, Ehestiftung, Eheberedung, and Brautlaufbrief.

A marital agreement was defined as any legal transaction that determines rights and obligations of spouses. The essence of those agreements was that there were personal and financial agreements at the same time. However, the financial settlements – the agreement about the husband’s or wife’s financial contribution to the marriage – predominated. Being an important financial source for the maintenance of the family, the assets were important to stabilize marriages. The husband administrated the estate and was liable for its continued existence. In these marital agreements the spouses could also agree about the husband making a contribution to the wife in return, or a security payment for the dowry.

Those types of marital agreements were not only settled between rustic, but also aristocratic, spouses.

Beside the above mentioned possible settlements the German marital agreement in these times above all also contained agreements about inheritance (wills or any other kind of inheritance transactions). The spouses, e.g., agreed about the future of financial contributions, reciprocal assigning, and provision for children. The husband also often agreed that his heirs had to support his wife after his death. Thus, marital agreements and agreements about inheritance went hand in hand. The variety of such agreements was enormous, especially in the area of non-codified law, where spouses had creative scope.

The personal decisions in marital agreement included mainly decisions about parenting, religion or an agreement about the place of residence. The custody often was transferred completely to the wife. The spouses also settled agreements about support and education of the children in case of their divorce or agreed about contractual penalties if for example one of them refused the performance of matrimony.

 Hattenhauer states that there are good grounds to consider the German model as a Christian model. In comparison between the Roman and Jewish model on one side and the Christian model on the other side you will find that the most important difference is that the church never stabilized marriages by using financial transactions. As the Christian model of marriage, the holy sacrament, can never be dissolved, and assets were not necessary to enter one, this model didn’t need financial transactions. In addition to that, social classes were not important at all, and even poor people or slaves could enter a marriage.

According to the Roman model the limits of contractual freedom only were the compulsory law and morality. The various effective laws in former times gave the spouses different kinds of creative freedom. The “Preussische Allgemeine Landrecht” from 1794 hardly contained hardly any regulation about marital agreements, but regulated everything regarding the marriage itself. The “Saechsische Buergerliche Gesetzbuch” from 1863/1865 regulated everything in great detail.

All those regulations described as what is today known as the principle of morality, § 138 BGB (Buergerliches Gesetzbuch, the German Civil Code). According to the institutional character of a marriage as an ideal in the 19th century, a marriage rather was a moral than a legal phenomenon. Morality was then the most important limit on the freedom of contracts. In those times it was therefore determined in a very detailed manner what kind of agreements were void because of immorality: any agreement in which the spouses:

- assigned the wife to the husband’s power

- waived matrimony, sexual intercourse and joint residency

- waived the obligation of reciprocal care-taking

- excluded any litigation regarding marriages

- took away the husband’s benefits from the wife’s financial contribution such as the dowry

- adjourned the maturity to make the dowry to a date after the dissolution of this marriage

- conceded the other spouse the right of adultery or criminal behaviour

- limited the husband’s liability to administrate the wife’s dowry

An agreement was also void when it deprived the surviving wife of her property and gave it to the husband’s relatives after his death. In those times, people nonetheless believed that the above-listed limits gave the spouses enough contractual freedom.

According to Hattenhauer the end of this type of marital agreements came with the creation and effective date of the BGB (Buergerliches Gesetzbuch, i.e. the German Civil Code) in January 1900. From that time on, a marital agreement was defined as a contract which only determines the system of marital property. It did not determine any other kind of financial or personal matters. The 1901 book of annotations, Planckscher Kommentar, stated that a marital agreement is a contract used by spouses to determine their system of marital property. On the negative side you can not understand it as a contract which determines personal matters such as the wife’s obligation to follow her husband or the decisions about parenting, etc. Whether such agreements are valid and can be enforced depends on their accordance with the nature of marriage and morality. However, such agreement is not a marital agreement pursuant to § 1432 BGB.

From that time on, people didn’t acknowledge agreements about any personal matters anymore, even if they had done so in a tradition of hundreds of years. According to Hattenhauer the annotation shows the skeptical understanding of the validity of such contracts very clearly, because it points out the fact that such contracts had to be in accordance with the nature of a marriage. Because the BGB was understood as defining the nature of marriage in those times, consequently every agreement about personal matters was void, because it differed from the model described in the BGB.

The annotation to the first draft of the BGB had the same understanding:

“The draft acknowledges the principle of contractual freedom. However, it also points out the limits of contractual freedom. An agreement can only be valid as long as is not in contradiction to the nature of marriage. Agreements about the regulations regarding the marital status of spouses such as e.g. their legal relationship are void in general because those regulations are the necessary essence of marital relationships.”

By citing Art. 199 EGBGB (Einfuehrungsgesetz zum BGB, the Introduction Act to the BGB) Hattenhauer reaches the conclusion that the German law in those times didn’t favor such marital agreements anymore:

“The personal relations between spouses, especially their obligation to pay support, are determined by the regulations of the BGB, even if they concern a marriage before the effective date of BGB.”

Hattenhauer believes that the purpose of this was to eliminate agreements regarding personal matters in general. In his opinion, therefore, The Marital Agreement by Albert von Baldigands (1906) was a fundamental book which pointed out that such agreements are no longer marital agreements.

Regarding this new legal understanding of marital agreements Hattenhauer cites two cases:

In 1900 a court had to decide about an agreement in which the husband agreed to have his place of residence at the wife’s land property, and promised to cultivate the land. The wife sued the husband, and the court held that she had no right to demand performance of the agreement, because only the husband had the right to decide about the place of residency (pursuant to § 1354 BGB). It was also held that even if the agreement had been valid until the effective date of the BGB, it had become void.

In 1905 the courts had to decide again about a marital agreement made before the effective date of the BGB. In this case the husband had waived his right to administrate the wife’s estate, and had waived his right to use it. In consideration of this, the wife had waived her right to receive support from her husband. The court held that a contractual waiver regarding support is void and that it did not make a difference if the wife’s waiver was made freely or not.

From that time on it was case law, and the annotations stated, that all agreements about personal matters were void. They were not in accordance with the nature of marriage.

Hattenhauer says that one reason for this change in opinion about marital agreements and the mistrust against them might lie in the effort to create a uniform/homogeneous family and inheritance law. He argues that the authors of the BGB were proud that they had limited the former variety of 100 systems of marital property to only five. He therefore reaches the conclusion that it was only reasonable that nobody wanted to destroy this success and give the spouses their contractual freedom back.

The authors of the BGB were also convinced that they had created marriage as a “timeless and exhaustive institution,” and that they had created a truly moral model of marriage with equal rights for wife and husband by upholding the traditional roles. This middle class model of marriage was regarded as exclusive. As marriage and family were the cornerstones of the middle class, Hattenhauer believes that this was the reason why the middle class didn’t want to make any concessions for the benefit of the spouses’ individual liberty, and the demand for contractual freedom only led to mistrust.

However, in this new model of marriage the husband still had to be afraid of losing assets by leaving his wife. The new system was still able to stabilize a marriage because of the continued existence of a very traditional social order and the principle of marrying within one’s station.

Hattenhauer believes that this legislation would have been useless if the people’s understanding of marital obligations of spouses had not been generally shared. He also believes that the model was secured by society’s morality. He states that even socialists had the same opinion about sexuality, marriage, family etc. in those times. So he reaches the conclusion that the general moral understanding helped to make the courts find every agreement differing from the BGB void because of immorality.

According to Hattenhauer the acknowledgement of this model of marriage was also supported by society’s unbroken trust in their assets. It was e.g. not immoral if the fathers-in-law sat down and started calculating the amount of the assets while the spouses just enjoyed their love. But only after two decades, in the 1920s, the trust in the assets, and the assets themselves, were melted away by inflation, so marriage-stabilizing couldn’t be achieved by financial contributions anymore. Society was forced to look for new stabilizing techniques.

Hattenhauer states that from this time on a new “asset” for a wife to bring into the marriage was a solid vocational training, as a form of social security. People believed that this asset could not melt away even in times of inflation. The fact that both spouses were working turned out to be a stabilizing factor for marriage, especially regarding its psychological balance. Besides her dowry her vocational training now gave the wife stability even if she gave up her profession to become a housewife. However, even then, stability was still achieved by society’s constraints and traditional case law.

Hattenhauer then describes the current status quo:

- marriage has lost its protection by law

- middle-class morality has lost its general prestige

- the number of divorces and the number of children of divorce who are skeptical of marriage have increased

- the model of an “emancipatory marriage” has replaced the middle-class model of marriage

- the stabilizing legal techniques such as “Zugewinn- and Versorgungsausgleich” (equitable distribution including property and pensions) can be abolished by marital agreements

- the loss of faith and trust in marriage made the concubinage more attractive

- the loss of the husband’s responsibility for the wife’s social security (because of her ability to work) has increased the marriage-age of wives, reduced the number of children born into the marriage, and increased the number of disabled children.

According to Hattenhauer the traditional middle-class model of marriage has no binding character anymore and the “emancipatory model” of marriage is a fad without a function. He believes that this pluralism of models cannot be resolved by giving one of them priority, and that the role of the law is reduced to setting only the frameworks for what might be binding and what might not.

Today, there are various answers regarding the question of what is legally binding, or what is the nature of marriage and therefore is protected by the Code’s principle of morality (§ 138 BGB). Prof. Gernhuber, e.g., names various principles which he thinks are binding:

“[1] The principle to be free to enter a marriage, [2] that spouses make a contract by entering a marriage, [3] the principle of monogamy, [4] that marriage can only be between a woman and a man, [5] the spouses’ obligation to live in matrimony, [6]  that marriage can only be dissolved by death.”

Hattenhauer asks what kind of legal techniques we need in our changed society today, if we see those principles as binding? As the traditional pre-1900 marital agreement, varying the standard obligations of marriage, is back and practiced again, he believes that it can be used as a stabilizing legal technique. The determination of personal and financial matters in those agreements can help to give marriages a more binding character than the law itself does. Hattenhauer states that the creation of various types of such marital agreements has already begun and will continue. Those new marital agreements still find their limits of contractual freedom in illegality (§ 134 BGB) and morality (§ 138 BGB).

Looking at spouses’ considerations as they enter a marital agreement, you will find that hardly anybody has considered it as a stabilizing factor. You will also find that people haven’t paid much attention yet to agreeing on personal matters, nor to agreeing about certain personal sanctions, in a marital agreement, in contrast to financial matters and financial sanctions. According to Hattenhauer the demand for individualized agreements and regulations is especially high. He states that personal matters included in agreements can be: the decision to have children and their raising, the decision who works and who does the household work, the place of residence, the things you do in your leisure time, holidays, relationships with relatives and in-laws, religious decisions, decisions about the procedure to solve conflicts or problems, etc. As each of his listed personal matters can cause a conflict and might destroy a marriage if it cannot be solved, he argues, spouses should agree in a marital agreement about those personal matters and should therefore also agree about sanctions to avoid conflicts and the dissolution of the marriage.

As the regulations in the BGB regarding divorce, and high costs, do not deter spouses from the decision to get divorced, Hattenhauer thinks that it might aid the stabilization of marriages if spouses could agree to limit their right to get divorced. He states that any useful suggestions on this are still missing, and people miss the mark by only agreeing about financial sanctions. Prof. Langenfeld suggested having different systems regarding the financial consequences of ending a marriage, distinguishing between ending because of divorce and ending because of death.

Even the BGH (Supreme Court) had already to decide about the use of assets for the purpose of marriage-stabilizing. A marriage entered in 1976 in a mosque in Munich between Islamic spouses included an agreement about a payment in the amount of 100.000 DM in case of getting divorced. The BGH held that the agreement is valid under the freedom of contract. Thus, it was held that agreeing about financial sanctions in case of divorce is valid. It was also held that this was not a contract about the system of marital property, and therefore it did not have to be in one specific form (such as for example under § 1410 BGB).

But no courage to make such decisions on personal matters can be found yet.  Hattenhauer asks why we go about this complicated detour by using only financial sanctions to encourage the continued existence of marriage. Don’t we exclude from the opportunity of contractual stabilizing those spouses who don’t have considerable assets to lose? Why isn’t it possible to let all couples stabilize their marriages by using clear and formulated clauses? He hopes that the lawyers will improve upon this opportunity.

Then he comes back to his contested thesis about the possibility to waive the right to get divorced. First of all he states six theses:

  1. Agreements regarding personal matters are valid and find their limits in the general limits of privatization in civil law.
  2. A limitation or waiver of the right to get divorced is valid because it is not prohibited by law nor immoral or unconstitutional.
  3. Agreements about arbitration and any other models for solving conflicts are valid and legal
  4. Although entering or leaving a marriage has to comply with a certain form, agreements limiting the ability to get divorced do not.
  5. An agreed limit on the ability to get divorced can be revoked by agreement at any time.
  6. A court should determine the immorality of an objection regarding the waiver of the right to get divorced in a trial, in which the invalidity of the agreement has to be proved by the petitioner.

The train of thought is again, for example:

Wife and husband, both Catholics, want to get married and want their religion to become legally effective (in addition to the official governmental ceremony). Using Privatization in order to express their religious beliefs, the couple creates a marital agreement that they will not get divorced. In addition the agreement states that any litigation of marital issues will be decided by means of arbitration and the arbitrator shall be an ecclesiastical judge.

If the spouses then get into conflict there are two choices: Both agree to change the marital agreement, revoke their waiver and both can move the court for a conventional divorce. That means that nobody can jump out of the marriage hastily.  If the other spouse refuses to agree about the change of the marital agreement the spouse will then move the court to decide. But the Respondent can make the objection that the court has no jurisdiction because of the agreed clause regarding arbitration. If the respondent moves to the court of arbitration, he or she will be forced to find a mediated solution. If there is no arbitrated solution the arbitrator will dismiss the motion to get divorced because of the agreed waiver. The Petitioner can appeal by citing § 1041 Nr. 2 ZPO and proving the immorality of the Respondent’s objection regarding the waiver. Finally, the way out of a marriage should never be absolutely excluded as the last solution, but the way out should be restricted. This complies with the principle of tolerance and pluralism.

It is now necessary to show what sort of model of marriage will be more successful. In open concurrence to the already existing variety of dangerous and insecure models of concubinages, we will have a variety of secure marital agreements in which the demand for stability and the waiver of the right to get divorced will find their place. It will be personal self-fulfillment instead of being kept in leading strings by the government: In dubio pro libertate! [Meaning, in all cases that are in doubt, rule in favor of freedom. In English law, stated as “in statu dubio semper erit pro libertate iudicandum”. Bracton, f. 191 b]


Living trusts now automatically revised (not revoked) by divorce suits

Under HB 746, which became law July 1, transfers to a revocable living trust for the benefit of a spouse are revoked by a divorce or annulment. The trust is not revoked, just those transfers or benefits are.

The filing of a suit for divorce, annulment or separate maintenance does not revoke the transfers or benefits, but it does revoke any powers granted by the trust, such as a power of appointment (i.e., power to determine who else will get certain property), or the ability to serve as trustee or any other "fiduciary", such as trust director, advisor, guardian or conservator.

Code§ 64.2-412. D. Unless the trust instrument expressly provides otherwise, if a settlor creates a revocable trust and if, after such creation:

1. The settlor is divorced from the bond of matrimony or the settlor's marriage is annulled and the trust was revocable immediately before the divorce or annulment, then a provision of such revocable trust transferring property to or conferring any beneficial interest on the settlor's former spouse is revoked upon the divorce or the annulment of the settlor's marriage, and such property or beneficial interest shall be administered as if the former spouse failed to survive the divorce or annulment; or

2. An action is filed (i) for the divorce or annulment of the settlor's marriage to the settlor's spouse or for their legal separation or (ii) by either the settlor or the settlor's spouse for separate maintenance from the other, and the trust was revocable at the time of the filing, then a provision of such revocable trust conferring a power, including a power of appointment, on the spouse or nominating or appointing the spouse as a fiduciary, including trustee, trust director, conservator, or guardian, is revoked upon the filing, and such provision shall be interpreted as if the former spouse failed to survive the filing.

From H 746, Approved February 26, 2018


Leading child advocate calls for trained, respected, funded legal defenders for parents

The Importance of Family Defense  

By Martin Guggenheim,  ABA Family Law Quarterly Volume 48, No. 4 (Winter 2015) pp. 597-607

This article describes the growing field of “Family Defense,” which involves lawyers and other advocates working on behalf of parents or other family members whose children are at risk of being placed in court-ordered foster care. Although lawyers have been doing this work for several decades, a national movement to consolidate and enhance the field’s status in the legal profession is less than a decade old. Based in the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law, this movement’s purpose is to achieve procedural and social justice for all families involved with child welfare systems, through legal, legislative, and policy advocacy. Above all else, it seeks to ensure that every parent who is in jeopardy of having a child removed from his or her care by a child welfare agency is able to secure excellent legal representation during the entire length of the court process. This article explains the importance of the field and how it differs from criminal defense. Finally, it offers some insight into why the field is relatively unknown in the legal profession despite the important work that it does.

Full text of article 


Martha Raye: Bigger than Henry VIII in Divorce, Marriage

Singer and actress Martha Raye, honored for her tireless work with the troops in WW2, had <a href="https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Raye">seven marriages, lasting between 4 months and 9 years and averaging 3.5 years. She had 6 weddings in 19 years, 1937-1956. After her 6th divorce in 1960,</a> she abstained from marriage, or maybe marriage abstained from her,  until 1991.  She died in 1994, at 78 years old and still married and living with her husband,  and was buried with military honors at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 

 

Forbes & "Above the Law" get one wrong -- there's no tax on divorce settlements

"Examples of settlements facing tax on 100% include recoveries ... from your ex-spouse for claims related to your divorce or children," tax lawyer Robert Wood wrote in Forbes recently. "Defamation, financial fraud, divorce, malpractice, false imprisonment — clients will be paying taxes on 100 percent of their recovery on all of these." --  Joe Patrice blogged at Above the Law. 

Nope. What you get in a divorce is not taxable as income, and that is absolutely unchanged in the new tax act. Tax Code Sections 102 and 1041 ensure that. They do so by treating a divorce settlement as a "gift", which is mostly wrong, archaic, and insulting to women, but it gets the job done. As the IRS's guide to all things divorce-related, Publication 504, puts it, 

"Property you receive from your spouse (or former spouse, if the transfer is incident to your divorce) is treated as acquired by gift for income tax purposes. Its value isn’t taxable to you."

The latest edition of Publication 504 is from before the 2017 tax reforms, but again, the relevant parts of tax law weren't changed at all.

New Tax On Lawsuit Settlements -- Legal Fees Can't Be Deducted

By Robert W. Wood in Forbes

Tax Law’s Latest Victims: Our Clients

 


Judicial independence is threatened because self-satisfied courts & lawyers don't listen, don't explain, don't adapt to public's needs

So says Jesse Rutledge of the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Virginia, based on the Center's annual surveys of public opinion about the courts, and decades of working on how the courts interact with the population:

"It’s really easy to blame efforts to erode the independence of our courts exclusively on shrill politicians or the fragmented news media. ... With all this outside pressure, is it any wonder that public trust in the courts—the stock and trade that underpins the ability of the courts to be independent—continues to erode?

"Unfortunately, those of us on the inside of the system may have myopia. ...  The data shows that Americans who have had direct interactions with courts trust the judiciary less than those who haven’t. Put differently, those who come to our courthouses aren’t as impressed with what they see as we are with ourselves.

"... Courts must take swift action to improve customer service, simplify forms and processes, and move as much of their routine business online as is practicable for their community. Americans perceive judges and the lawyers who appear in their courtroom as sharing an interest in delay, and at the same time an increasing number feel they are being shut out of the legal system entirely. Simplifying byzantine forms and procedures could go a long way to allowing more people to help themselves. ...

"Americans are sending a clear message about their courts. They don’t need another lecture on the virtues of jury service. Instead, they want courts that are accountable, connected to their communities in meaningful ways, and where they are able to take care of routine business expeditiously. Court users—whether they are litigants, jurors, or those seeking to pay for a traffic infraction or to file a simple form at a clerk’s window—should be placed in the middle of every equation, not treated as an afterthought."

Supporting independent courts—from the inside out


Divorce/separation not affordable for Bay-area lawyers, other professionals, so here's what they do:

Bay area couples who separate or divorce are increasingly sharing a home for economic reasons,  Amy Graff  writes in SFGATE. The example she leads with includes a lawyer in private practice. For actual separation to be affordable, at least one parent would have to move so far away that caring for, and transporting, the children would be unworkable. And this arrangement is actually optimal for the children, when the parents can remain civil with each other, she says after looking at several couples who are doing this.

The Bay Area is so expensive divorced parents can't afford to live separately:

A perspective from Mommy Files' Amy Graff

SF Gate, May 8, 2018

via Family Law Prof Blog