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:
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:
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