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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.

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