[Updated to reflect Committee and Subcommittee action on MLK Day]
Just on today's agenda for the house civil law subcommittee:
- Change the word "visitation" to "parenting time", except in abuse or neglect cases. [subcommittee approved unanimously with amendments]
- Let child support be paid to a special needs trust or ABLE account. [subcommittee approved unanimously]
- Let wills be made and witnessed electronically.
- Have all custody orders sent to the children's schools.
- Give fiduciaries (including executors, guardians, or power-of-attorney holders) control over "digital property" -- such as files, domains, bitcoin -- but not necessarily personal communications/social media unless the owner has specified that in the document giving the fiduciary authority. Replaces the 2015 Privacy Expectation Afterlife and Choices Act with the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. [subcommittee approved unanimously]
- Cap fees of court-appointed lawyers under Servicemembers Civil Relief Act at $125.00. Not per hour; per case! [subcommittee disapproved]
- Let certain charities and law firms be trustees of "self-settled spendthrift trusts" [subcommittee approved unanimously with amendment]
- Require guardians ad litem to be appointed for any incapacitated party in a civil case. Current law only requires it for defendants. Bill would expand this to plaintiffs -- including divorce plaintiffs. But if the party has a lawyer, GAL appointment is not required, though it is still possible. [subcommittee disapproved]
- Let exes bring post-divorce litigation back to the divorce court even if it had "remanded" jurisdiction to juvenile court. [subcommittee approved unanimously]
- Make more of minimum wage-earners' earnings garnishment-proof (but apparently only a technical correction to make one statute and court forms match another statute). [subcommittee approved unanimously]
- Reduce probate fees [subcommittee approved unanimously]
- Have district court substitute judges appointed by the court's chief judge, not by the circuit courts. [subcommittee recommends tabling]
- Clarify that a surviving spouse can claim an elective share and a homestead allowance. [subcommittee approved unanimously]
Meanwhile, in the Senate Courts Committee:
- Female circumcision/genital mutilation of minors: 20 years to life for doing it or for parent allowing it; fine up to $100,000; victim can sue. [Courts committee approved unanimously with substitute text; then referred to Finance Committee]
- Ensure process servers' access to homes in apartment buildings, gated communities, etc.
- Clarify that witness and document subpoenas can be enforceably served on Va. registered agents of out-of-state businesses, even if they are not parties in a case. [Killed]
- Repeal the already-overturned ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions from state statutes [Killed with explanatory letter by large majority, including leading liberals, in Courts Committee, 10-2]
- Uniform Trust Decanting Act, on moving assets from one trust into a second trust. [Committee approved unanimously]
- Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (same as above in the house) [Committee approved unanimously]
Other family legislation being considered in this session:
- End alimony at retirement, with a very few exceptions.
- Let all government employees working overseas keep their Virginia residency and ability to get a Virginia divorce; not just servicemembers and foreign service officers.
- Let courts make alimony payors maintain life insurance for payees
- Ensure that clergy and religious institutions aren't required to celebrate marriages they disapprove of.
- Make all ex parte protective orders state the allegations they are based on, including in-court testimony as well as affidavits. (Ex parte means the defendant isn't at the hearing and gets no notification)
- Require courts in custody or visitation cases to also consider any history of abuse of non-family members
- Make it harder to restrict custody or visitation due to parent's blindness
- Make all juvenile court judges take training on non-parents' custody/visitation standing "rights"
- Have estates pay child support arrears before paying local taxes, other debts, other claims
- Remove overturned same-sex marriage ban from state constitution