Pending 2020 Virginia Legislation: Not Much Family Law, But Lots of Laws About Families and Children

By John Crouch with Sarah Panariello

This year's legislative session includes many modest but salutary amendments to make family life and family law a little more efficient and fair, and immense amounts of political legislation that will have various side effects on families and family law cases. So there are only a few bills that do anything significant about family law practice. But there are many that aim to protect children, and which will affect families and will work their way into family law cases.

This blog post will be updated throughout the legislative season to track all family-law bills, and many bills on other topics that could 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.

But who says there's no free lunch, or that the General Assembly has no family-law visionaries? In fact, 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 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.

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; would be urged to assure frequent, continuing contact with both parents -- of course only "where appropriate" (sigh); 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.

Another emphasizes that 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 several efforts at universal health care, and a state-run retirement account that private employers could opt into.

One bill says that if you bring a contempt case and you lose, you can appeal the "not in contempt" finding to the Court of Appeals, fixing an 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 expand the maximum jail time to 30 days.

Another such oddity being targeted this year is the rule that in Juvenile Court, fee awards are only based on relative economic circumstances, and nothing else. 

Many others are nice little changes, but frankly minor. One bill gets rid of the third-party corroborating witnesses to prove divorce grounds. 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 exceedingly marginal. This year's crop includes some imaginative efforts against new twists on domestic abuse which are creative, but sadly, probably not completely hypothetical: using electronic remote control of things in and around the victim's home, and filing lawsuits to retaliate against, or deter, victims' pursuing civil or criminal remedies. There is also an interesting proposal for protective orders to include restitution for several economic costs caused by abuse.

Adult guardianship and conservatorship are facing a major overhaul. It puts much more scrutiny on guardians and other fiduciaries, while emphasizing that elderly people should not lose any more autonomy than is absolutely necessary, should have a voice in their own guardianship cases, and generally should not be cut off from any other family members.

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 parlors. 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.

Sexual freedom and discrimination: One bill abolishes the requirements for children to get a parent's or a judge's permission for abortions. Another 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;, severely limit "conversion therapy"; repeal the "conscience clause" that lets religious institutions with traditional moral beliefs keep operating adoption agencies, and do several things to banish all forms of anti-gay or anti-trans discrimination. One even says that "inflicting, creating, allowing or threatening any physical or mental injury based on gender identity or sexual orientation" is legally child abuse or neglect. There are also high-profile, fast-tracked bills ratifying the federal Equal Rights Amendment. 

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.

BILLS AND THEIR STATUS

APPROVED BY GOVERNOR: None yet.

PASSED BOTH HOUSES: None yet.

PASSED ONE HOUSE, ON FLOOR OF THE OTHER:

SJ 1 Ratifies Equal Rights Amendment

HJ 1 Ratifies Equal Rights Amendment

PASSED ONE HOUSE, IN COMMITTEE OF THE OTHER: 

PASSED ONE HOUSE, IN SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE OTHER:

SB 186 Individualized education program teams; Dept. of Education to develop guidelines.

SB 214 GALs to review and report on Individualized Education Plans in young-adult guardianship cases

SB 186 IEP teams must consider appropriate instruction about sexual health, self-restraint, self-protection, respect for personal privacy, and personal boundaries

SB 44 Lets students keep and bear sunscreen without a doctor's note, etc.

SB 355 Assisted living facilities; audio-visual recording of residents to be studied, stakeholder-grouped, then regulated.

SB 70 Firearm transfers; criminal history record information check, penalty.

SB 238 Increases required kindergarten hours 83%

SB 247 Gender-neutral terms in no-fault divorce law.

SB 62 Race information not required in marriage records, divorce/annulment reports, VS-4s, nor divorce statistics

HB 143 Unemployment compensation for leaving employment to follow military spouse 

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

SB 240 "Red Flag" Firearms removal from person posing substantial risk of injury to himself, etc., penalties.

OUT OF COMMITTEE IN ONE HOUSE:

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.

HB 1530 No-fault divorce grounds corroboration requirement repealed.

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.

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." 

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 137 Guardians ad litem for children must give certification of compliance with standards.

HB 967 Military service members' spouses: expediting the issuance of professional credentials

HB 305  Fee for lodging, etc., of wills increased from low to mid-single digits

HB 904  Public sports programs' volunteers and employees shall be mandated reporters of suspected child abuse/neglect

HB 778  60 instead of 45 days for "family assessments" when children alleged to be at risk.

HB 402 Public school lock-down drills, frequency, exemptions.

SB 173 Stun weapons; prohibits possession on school property, exempts holder of concealed handgun permit, but only if it remains in vehicle

HB 999 Schools must have epinephrine constantly accessible, along with staff trained to administer it 

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.

HB 839 Probate tax exception/refund for Virginia Beach mass shooting victims

IN FULL COMMITTEE IN ONE HOUSE:

Custody/Parenting Time

SB 571 Grandparent visitation when parent dead: factors court must consider, including parties' motivations

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." 

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." 

SB 430 Each parent to have access to child-care records, regardless of custody.

Child Support

SB 434 Court may award either parent the right to claim child-related income tax credits as well as dependency exemptions.

SB 428 Any unpaid medical expenses for pregnancy and birth to be split in proportion to income, if support case filed before child 6 months old.

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. 

Marriage

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

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.

Elder Law/Wills/Trusts/Probate

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.

Child Abuse/Foster Care

SB 501 Adoption and foster care home studies may be done by anyone who has completed the training program; regulations to be issued.

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.

Child Safety

SB 593 All firearms in a licensed in-home day care provider's home must be stored unloaded and locked up.

SB 71 Firearms; possession on school property.

HB 38 Tanning facilities prohibited for minors.

Education

HB 134 IEP teams must consider appropriate instruction about sexual health, self-restraint, self-protection, respect for personal privacy, and personal boundaries

SB 390 Reduces Standards of Learning assessments to the federally-required minimum

SB 729 Schools don't have to contact police about all conduct that might be a misdemeanor

HB 223 Education, recommendations for improving civic education.

Sexual Abuse/Assault

SB 579 Streamlines & reorganizes Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry process; lower-level offenders will no longer have to register annually.

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.

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.

Domestic Violence/Protective Orders

 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 1182 Protective order may include temporary spousal support and restitution for property damage, medical bills and other financial loss caused by abuse.

HB 880 Protective orders; expedites process to dissolve order when petitioner requests it.

HB 870 Sexual abuse: 20-year statute of limitations for everyone, not just when victim was a minor

SB 490 No guns after conviction of stalking, domestic violence or sex assault; criteria for restoring gun rights.

Health

SB 423 Health insurance; mandated coverage for hearing aids for minors.

SB 213 Study increasing the Personal Maintenance Allowance for people receiving Medicaid, etc.

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.

Mental Health

Military Families

Abortion

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.

Procedure

SB 408 Notices of civil case appeals shall be certified-mailed, not posted on the courtroom door.

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.

Constitutional

IN SUBCOMMITTEE IN ONE HOUSE:

Marriage

Divorce

HB 1425 Race information not required in marriage records, divorce/annulment reports, VS-4s, nor divorce statistics

Custody/Parenting Time

HB 485 Requires courts in custody and visitation cases to "when appropriate, assure frequent and continuing contact with each parent" 

Child Support

HB 690 Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF): Child support collected for non-TANF children shall not be taken to reimburse state for TANF money for parent's other children.

Domestic Violence/Protective Orders

HB 867 Single-sex domestic violence shelters allowed.

HB 1077  Lets minors petition for a protective order on their own behalf

HB 470 Protective orders; non-lawyer social services department employees can petition court for protective orders on behalf of incapacitated persons

HB 159 Protective order may prohibit using any electronic device to remotely control anything in or around petitioner's home

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 78 No guns after even one misdemeanor household-member assault & battery conviction; criteria for restoring gun rights.

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."

Retirement

HB 775 My Virginia Plan; multiple employer retirement plan for private employers and their employees.

Procedure

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.

HB 780 Courts to accept copies of proofs process-service in place of originals

SB 693 Common-law defense of intra-family immunity abolished in wrongful death cases.

HB 588 Lets legal notices appear in online publications

HB 712 Lets legal notices appear in online publications

HB 401 Court-appointed counsel for parents in child welfare cases to get additional compensation in the very low three figures

HJ 22 Study deficient/outdated training of substitute and retired district court judges 

Elder law/Wills/Trusts/Probate

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 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 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.

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.

SB 261 Accounts filed by fiduciaries and reports filed by guardians must be signed under oath; not to do so is a misdemeanor

SB 308 Accounts filed by fiduciaries and reports filed by guardians must be signed under oath under penalty of felony perjury

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.

HB 96 Powers of attorney must be signed in presence of a witness or notary public

HB 362 Physician assistants, not just doctors, can make determinations that patient has no capacity to make informed decisions

HB 331 No one particular clinical diagnosis automatically means you're incapacitated.

HB 736 State estate tax reinstated, unless most assets are in a working farm or closely held business

HB 641 Funeral homes must accept caskets provided by third parties, but need not store them

Military Families

Sexual Abuse/Assault

HB 298 Misdemeanor sexual offenses; increases statute of limitations, where the victim is a minor.

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

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

HB 475 Virginia sexual assault forensic examiner coordination program; established, report.

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 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 289 Requires that interviews of child victims of alleged sexual abuse be conducted as a forensic interview at the local child advocacy center

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 673 Cruelty to children; increases penalty to a Class 4 felony.

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.

Child Safety

HB 600 In-home day cares must store guns and ammo separately, and locked up

HB 799 Day cares must test all drinkable water sources for lead.

HB 955 Children's online privacy protection; release of personal information prohibited.

HB 356 Child labor; employment of children on tobacco farms

HB 675 License restrictions for minors; use of handheld personal communications devices.

 HB 463 Minors; allowing access to firearms

HB 853 Firearms; recklessly allowing access to certain persons (including minors, but with major exceptions, see Va. Code § 18.2-308.7)

HB 1080 Firearms or other weapons; unauthorized to possess on school property.

HB 1083 Minors; allowing access to firearms, Class 6 felony; no unsupervised use under age 12.

HB 72 Allowing access to firearms by children; recklessly leaving loaded, unsecured firearm.

HB 578 Smoking; illegal in motor vehicle with a minor present (current law only covers minors under 8)

HB 939 Public high schools must teach firearm safety education, and must do so without firearms.

Education

HB 256 Criminal disorderly conduct does not include things students do in school or on bus

HB 257 Schools don't have to contact police about all conduct that might be a misdemeanor

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.

HB 455 TANF (welfare) receiving families to get community college scholarships in pilot program

HB 678 Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts

HB 931 Public schools; reduces number of Standards of Learning assessments, report.

HB 197 Financial literacy objectives; study incorporating them into math SOL

Health

HB 529 Universal health care; study options for financing.

HJ 18 Universal health care; study cost of implementing in the Commonwealth

HB 823 Health Insurance Premium Payment program coverage expanded

SB 633 Music therapy to be strictly licensed and regulated

HB 687 Doulas to be state-regulated, registered and certified

Mental Health

SB 431 Mental health professionals may not restrict parents' access to health records, or refuse to testify, as a condition of providing services.

HB 308 Students' excused absences for mental and behavioral health reasons

HB 42 Health care providers must be trained in screening patients for prenatal and postpartum depression

SB 315 Emergency rooms must screen for depression, provide info/referrals

Abortion

HB 1473 Surrogacy contract provisions requiring abortion or selective reduction unenforceable, void, against state public policy.

LGBT Issues

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.

HB 386 Conversion therapy prohibited for minors or when state-funded. No state benefits for it; no state contracts or grants to any entity that does it or refers people to it.

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."

DEAD (BY VARIOUS METHODS):

HB 291 Uniform Collaborative Law Act

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.

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 350 Requires courts in custody and visitation cases to "when appropriate, assure frequent and continuing contact with each parent"

HB 95 Decisions that a person is not in contempt of court can be appealed to the Court of Appeals.

HB 163 Contempt of court "summary punishment" -- increases max penalty to 30 days

SB 61 Using cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil on doctor's written advice shall no be the sole reason for denying or restricting custody, visitation, adoption or foster parenthood.

HB 40 Public schools must have mental health break spaces

SB 117 Day care operated in homes needs license if caring for three or more children (current law is five)

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 16 Assault firearms and certain firearm magazines; prohibiting sale, transport, etc., penalties.

SB 18 Firearms; restricting access under age 18, purchase under age 21

SB 75 Minors; allowing access to firearms, penalty.

HB 1001 Assault and battery against a family or household member; prior conviction, term of confinement.

SB 19 Records of marriages shall not require identification of race.

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

HB 926 Income tax, state; credit for employer contributions to Virginia College Savings Plan accounts.

 HB 158 Tax deduction for K-12 school tuition or home instruction expenses

SB 104 Vaccinations and immunizations; certain minors given authority to consent.

 SJ 2 Constitutional amendment; right to personal reproductive liberty

SB 21 Abortion; repeal of parental/judicial consent requirement for minors, and other restrictions (incorporated into SB733)

 


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.

Shocked by cheerfully ignorant, arrogant decision-making? Not if you've seen a judge learn family law on the job.

There was a lot of interest on social media in 's analysis of how President Trump deals quickly and authoritatively with issues he admittedly knows nothing about.  was thunderstruck at how monstrously dangerous it was to have major decisions made in cheerfully-admitted ignorance, by what the decision-maker thinks is simple common sense. But as a family law attorney, I really couldn't tell any difference between the President's performance and watching a judge who's new to Family Law, trying to puzzle out why the law seems to want both parents involved in a child's life after a breakup, why unwed fathers have the few rights they do have, etc. Or what the Hague Convention on child abduction is for, and what in the world is wrong with a mom taking her children halfway around the world just to get them far away from the father. Or the times I've watched Supreme Court Justices do the same thing as they debate the Hague Convention, or paternity law, assume the validity of wildly wrong speculations about what happens in custody litigation, and snort with equal contempt at the parents in these cases and the Congress that passed such seemingly pointless laws and treaties. Even experienced trial judges sometimes just reinforce their bias and irrational rules-of-thumb over time. 

Here's the Trump version of this routine:

SHERIFF AUBREY: And the other thing is asset forfeiture. People want to say we’re taking money and without due process. That’s not true. We take money from dope dealers —

THE PRESIDENT: So you’re saying – okay, so you’re saying the asset-taking you used to do, and it had an impact, right? And you’re not allowed to do it now?

SHERIFF AUBREY: No, they have curtailed it a little bit. And I’m sure the folks are —

THE PRESIDENT: And that’s for legal reasons? Or just political reasons?

SHERIFF AUBREY: They make it political and they make it – they make up stories. All you’ve got to do —

THE PRESIDENT: I’d like to look into that, okay? There’s no reason for that. Dana, do you think there’s any reason for that? Are you aware of this?

[Then-acting Attorney General Dana Boente]: I am aware of that, Mr. President. And we have gotten a great deal of criticism for the asset forfeiture, which, as the sheriff said, frequently was taking narcotics proceeds and other proceeds of crime. But there has been a lot of pressure on the department to curtail some of that.

THE PRESIDENT: So what do you do? So in other words, they have a huge stash of drugs. So in the old days, you take it. Now we’re criticized if we take it. So who gets it? What happens to it? Tell them to keep it?

MR. BOENTE: Well, we have what is called equitable sharing, where we usually share it with the local police departments for whatever portion that they worked on the case. And it was a very successful program, very popular with the law enforcement community.

THE PRESIDENT: And now what happens?

MR. BOENTE: Well, now we’ve just been given – there’s been a lot of pressure not to forfeit, in some cases.

THE PRESIDENT: Who would want that pressure, other than, like, bad people, right? But who would want that pressure? You would think they’d want this stuff taken away.

SHERIFF AUBREY: You have to be careful how you speak, I guess. But a lot of pressure is coming out of – was coming out of Congress. I don’t know that that will continue now or not.

THE PRESIDENT: I think less so. I think Congress is going to get beat up really badly by the voters because they’ve let this happen. And I think badly. I think you’ll be back in shape. So, asset forfeiture, we’re going to go back on, okay? I mean, how simple can anything be? You all agree with that, I assume, right?

Watching Donald Trump Try to Puzzle Out What ‘Asset Forfeiture’ Means Is Deeply Discomfiting

By  in New York Magazine

See also, for example,


Adultery Constitutionally Protected, Mustn't "Stigmatize", Federal 9th Circuit Rules

Perez v. City of Roseville, as described in:

Ninth Circuit: Adultery Is Constitutionally Protected

The court holds that Lawrence v. Texas limits government restrictions on extramarital sex.


2018 Va. family law legislation: Alimony, court reporter reform, abuse prevention, child support, inheritance, violence, legalized adultery?

UPDATED APRIL 10, 2018

MODIFICATION BY THE GOVERNOR 

  •  HB 1351 Joint legal or physical child custody; custody and visitation decisions, communication to parties. Governor added: In any case or proceeding involving the custody or visitation of a child, to enable the child to apply for a state or federal benefit and upon the request of any party, the court shall make any finding of fact required by state or federal law in order for the child to receive such benefit. The existing language, which the Governor did not change, is: "The court shall consider and may award joint legal, joint physical, or sole custody, and there shall be no presumption in favor of any form of custody."  The bill's original text, completely replaced as it went through both houses, was, "The consideration of "joint physical custody" means the court shall consider custody and visitation arrangements that are reasonably constructed to maximize a child's time with each parent to the greatest extent possible in the child's best interests." At least the statute still says, "The court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children." 

ENACTED, SIGNED BY GOVERNOR

KILLED (incl. passed by, stricken, tabled, continued to next year ...)

  • HB 599 Child support; nonpayment, amount of arrearage paid, suspension of driver's license.
  • HB 1223 Erin's Law, having schools educate children to recognize, resist and report molestation
  • HB 661 Assault and battery against a family or household member; enhanced, penalty. [Passed house, passed senate with substitute,  each house insisted on its own version, time ran out for Conference Committee]
  • HB 411 Assisted conception; gender-neutral as to same-sex.
  • HB 998 Parental or legal custodial powers, temporary delegation of; child-placing agency. [Passed House, continued to 2019 in Senate committee]
  • HB 807 Custody and visitation agreements; best interests of the child, violent abuse of other family members
  • HB 412 Marriage-related criminal laws; gender-neutral terms, adultery repeal, penalty.
  • HB 413 Adoption; gender-neutral as to same-sex.
  • HB 414 Same-sex marriage; marriage laws, gender-neutral terms.
  • HB 478 Domestic violence-related misdemeanors; enhanced, penalty.
  • HB 1237 Assault and battery against a family or household member; first offense, enhanced penalty.
  • HB 149 Child support order payee; change in physical custody of child, orders involving DSS.
  • HB 1331 Child support; review of guidelines federal compliance.
  • SB 64 Custody and visitation decisions; communication to parties required in writing.
  • SB 70 Custody and visitation; rights of parents with a disability.
  • SB 178 Parental or legal custodial powers, temporary delegation of; child-placing agency.
  • SB 596 Victims of domestic violence, etc.; firearms safety or training course.
  • SB 603 Same-sex marriage; gender-neutral terms.
  • SB 612 Assisted conception; parentage presumption.
  • SB 727 FOIA; exemptions for courts of record, courts not of records and Office of the Executive Secretary
  • SB 938 Child support; withholding of income, contracts with an independent contractor.
  • HB 216 Guardians, licensed physician, etc.; annual reports to include medical examination.
  • HB 383 Missing-heir search firms; void contracts.
  • HB 406 Guardianship; protects communication between incapacitated persons & others, notification of relatives.
  • HB 406 Guardianship; communication between incapacitated persons & others, notification of relatives.
  • HB 1403 Electronic wills; requirements.
  • HB 1565 Presumption of death; missing person reports.

 Compiled by John Crouch, updated by John Crouch and Sarah Araman


If presidential perjurers don't get charged, will anyone be afraid to lie in court?

In the Clinton impeachment we decided that perjury isn't an impeachable offense, at least when it's basically about a president's private life and not the essential parts of his job, treason, murder, rape, subverting democratic elections, corruption ... .

But what about plain old criminal prosecutions? if presidents and candidates don't get prosecuted for obvious perjury either, then that tells everyone else to disregard that lying when testifying it's illegal and dangerous. And it gives lawyers and judges another reason not to believe what anyone says. Testifying to a court -- whether on the witness stand, in a deposition, or a written, notarized affidavit -- is under oath and "under penalty of perjury."

Newsweek has published clear proof that Donald Trump either: (a) lied in a deposition in a case against an ex-employee, about a failed attempt to bribe Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, or (b) lied about it to Bush's face in the second debate. Or both. (Even if bribe is the wrong word, that doesn't affect the specific question that the lie and contradiction were about: Whether Trump was trying to get Bush to reverse his opposition to casino gambling when he hired the Defendant to get Florida to allow him to build a casino and hosted a fundraising event for Bush.)

The lawsuit was in Broward County, Florida. Perjury in a deposition is a third-degree felony under Florida law, and can mean up to five years in prison. I haven't yet found out whether Trump was in Florida or another state when he gave his deposition testimony, and whether that would keep Florida from prosecuting him. But the head prosecutor in Broward County, and/or the county where Trump testified, needs to decide whether to pursue a perjury investigation and prosecution, preferably before the election. 

DONALD TRUMP EITHER LIED TO THE REPUBLICANS OR BROKE THE LAW (EXCLUSIVE)


Why's the military so toxic for marriage AND divorce? The best-expressed and newest insights.

Carl Forsling repeats several often-heard, and quite true, observations about how the military is bad for marriage, plus some insights that are original but intuitively very convincing once he points them out. Which explain why it's also so hard on divorce.

"Divorce — it’s no stranger to those in the military. At the same time, the military is a very tradition-minded institution, so divorce is often treated like the family secret no one talks about. ... some commanders have very black and white attitudes in regards to marriage. ... surprisingly prevalent in an institution where divorce is commonplace. The military attracts strong personalities, and they tend to either be very religious with very traditional views of morality or very not."

Very true. I'm more familiar with the strong personalities who are very non-traditional about marriage -- well, they may be traditional and sentimental about it in some ways, but in ways that get them married five times and divorced four times, if they're lucky. And hopefully with a divorce between each marriage. Or divorced early and married never again. Sometimes getting taken advantage of royally, as they see it, in their first divorce, and then becoming determined that next time, and every next time, they will be the ones in the relationship with the power, the knowledge, the leverage and the manipulation. Whether that's in a divorce or in devoutly unwed cohabitation. 

On the other hand, there are many who are honorable and generous to a fault. Or who want what's best for their kids even if it isn't best for themselves. 

Many, whether honorable or manipulative, are gung-ho and unashamed of whatever course they're pursuing, in divorce, adultery or whatever. If they're war veterans, they usually have a sense of entitlement, understandably. The military rightly tells them that they and their jobs are important, and that the civilian world should accommodate them. They may see divorce and other family breakups as just part of the petty civilian-life BS that the military requires them to take care of, but that could never be compared in importance to their mission or their careers.

And yet again, there's another side of this: Timid careerists who are always looking over their shoulders. Junior officers who are expert at creating paper trails to shift blame and responsibility to others, and who think that will work for them in family court.

I've only recently begun to see the very religious and neo-traditional officers and servicemembers the author talks about, but I know they have been out there for quite a while now.

He has a refreshing point of view on a practice that is widespread, widely advised, encouraged by regulations, but which also can make civilian courts get really mad at spouses and treat them like stalkers who are trying to destroy the careers they have benefited from:

"On top of that, some hurt soon-to-be former spouses have in the past called up commanding officers and sergeants major, and in today’s “pro-family” military, those leaders usually picked up the phone to an earful of often highly exaggerated drama. Sometimes those senior leaders rightfully take it with a grain of salt. Other times, service members get chewed out or worse based on the spouse’s account of events that may or may not have happened as described. ... Many units now have “human factors” or “commander’s safety” councils, wherein members’ personal lives are aired out in the name of “safety.” Guess who gets talked about in those? In today’s environment, where the phrase “perception is reality” is too often said without irony, too many service members end up with their reputations tarred." 

(That's not just "in the past", by the way.)

As for two well-known factors that weaken military families, he describes them freshly and eloquently:

"Service members often marry young. Part of that is the rapid maturation the military forces on people, part of it is undoubtedly bad decisions based on housing allowance rates, and part of it is ironically likely the military’s old-fashioned views on marriage. Whatever the reason, marrying young is not a good indicator of matrimonial success."

"Add in the deployments, long hours, etc., and things don’t bode well for military couples. There are some marriages that thrive despite the challenges — as those in the military are fond of saying, 'What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.' For others, though, what doesn’t kill them severely damages their relationships."

Another factor Forsling doesn't mention: The continuing reluctance to seek mental health treatment for reputation and career reasons. That has been a huge problem in many of my cases.

He concludes: 

The military has made a big push to be more family friendly in recent years. ... As it tries to be better for traditional families, it needs to improve the culture for non-traditional ones, as well."

That's so true. Our society needs to understand that being pro-family means strengthening intact nuclear families, but also honoring all family bonds and strengthening what's left of "broken" families too. 

The Military’s Problem With Marriage

 

Congress to Rein in Juvenile Courts, End "Status" Detention

A bipartisan coalition, including Virginia's Rep. Robert Scott and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, is working with the American Bar Association to update the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act to incorporate the latest scientific findings on juvenile psychology and development, crime prevention and community safety. A key feature is the end of jailing youth for "status offenses" -- things that would not be crimes if committed by adults -- and jailing them even temporarily with adult criminals.

The development of holistic, therapeutic juvenile courts over the past 100 years has done much good, but has also given them great power and discretion and little accountability. Children who merely misbehave can be sucked into the system, bring their whole families with them, get permanently defined as troubled youth, and be supervised so constantly that they can never get out of the legal system until they age out, having missed the opportunity to grow up. My father and law partner Richard Edelin Crouch sounded the alarm about this in the William & Mary Law Review 50 years ago, inspired by the Juvenile Court saga of his younger brother, the late Howard R. Crouch, which started when he idly walked by a restaurant, stuck his head in the door and yelled, "This place stinks!". The police were called, the social workers who followed in their wake declared the Crouches a "broken family" because their father had died, and it all helped inspire Richard's lifelong work for civil liberties and the rights of children, parents and families.

Reauthorization bill seeks to update a key juvenile justice law after more than 10 years

BY RHONDA MCMILLION @ abajournal.com, SEP 1, 2015 

See also:

Therapeutic juvenile courts ignored constitutional rights, human nature, says space-age law student


McDonnell opinion shows how little we learn about court cases from news coverage

Virginia appellate court expert J. Steven Emmert put his finger on the main reason I founded this blog:

"News reporting of a trial is often not a good indicator of how the case is actually going. You may have seen skeptical views of the evidence from this news story or that opinion writer, but trust me: you cannot evaluate the evidence in a case unless you watch the evidence and listen to the testimony, just as the jurors do. News reports sometimes don’t convey the main thrust of the evidence or the nuances of the testimony."

Emmert,  "FOURTH CIRCUIT AFFIRMS McDONNELL’S CONVICTION", posted July 13, 2015.

Reading the fact summary in a court opinion can also be a lousy way to learn the real facts -- my father and law partner Richard Crouch used to say that when he read the opinion in one of his own cases, he could barely even recognize that it was the same case. One reason is, as Emmert writes about gov. Bob McDonnell's case:

"An appellate court has to set out the facts in the light most favorable to the lower-court winner. So if today’s factual recitation seems slanted in favor of the government, that’s both understandable and completely normal."