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

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

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

APPROVED BY GOVERNOR:

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

PASSED BOTH HOUSES:

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

PASSED ONE HOUSE, OUT OF COMMITTEE IN THE OTHER:

PASSED ONE HOUSE:

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

DEAD (UNDER VARIOUS EUPHEMISMS)

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

Can "conservative" churches stop breaking up families?

By John Crouch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Updated 4/23/20

By John Crouch and Sarah Panariello

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

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

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

HIGHLIGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEAD BUT NOT FORGOTTEN (UNTIL NEXT YEAR, ANYHOW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

BILLS AND THEIR STATUS

PASSED BOTH HOUSES: 

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

GOVERNOR REQUESTED CHANGES INSTEAD OF SIGNING: 

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

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

Divorce

Marriage

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

Custody/Parenting Time

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

Child Support

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

Spousal Support

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

Adoption

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

Child Abuse/Foster Care

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

Domestic Violence/Protective Orders

Elder Laws/Wills/Trusts/Probate

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

Procedure

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

Sexual Abuse/Assault

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

Child Safety

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

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

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

Education

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

Health

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

Mental Health

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

Military Families

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

LGBT Issues

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

Abortion

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

Criminal

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

DEAD (BY VARIOUS METHODS AND EUPHEMISMS):

Custody/Parenting Time

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

Support

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

Marriage

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

Divorce

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

Adoption

Child Abuse/Foster Care

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

Sexual Abuse/Assault

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

Domestic Violence/Protective Orders

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

Child Safety

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

Elder Law/Wills/Trusts/Probate

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

Procedure

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

Education

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

Health

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

Mental Health

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

LGBT Issues

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

Military Families

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

Abortion

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

Criminal


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

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

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

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

‘NO LOVE’ CHILD OF BUCKLEY


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

GOVERNOR PROPOSED SUBSTITUTE INSTEAD OF APPROVING:

SUBSTITUTE FOR:

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

 

APPROVED BY GOVERNOR:

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

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

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

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

A perspective from Mommy Files' Amy Graff

SF Gate, May 8, 2018

via Family Law Prof Blog


Kentucky enacts 50-50 custody presumption

"There shall be a presumption, rebuttable by a preponderance of evidence, that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child. If a deviation from equal parenting time is warranted, the court shall construct a parenting time schedule which maximizes the time each parent or de facto custodian has with the child and is consistent with ensuring the child's welfare." ...

"When determining or modifying a custody order pursuant to Section 1, 2, or 4 of this Act, the court shall consider the safety and well-being of the parties and of the children. If domestic violence and abuse as defined in KRS 403.720 is alleged, and the court finds that it has been committed by one (1) of the parties against another party or a child of the parties within three (3) years immediately preceding the custody hearing in question, the court shall not presume that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child."

HB 528, recently signed by Kentucky's governor. There are other provisions, but those are the wholly new and most important ones.

Full text of bill and amendments

h/t Larry Gaughan, Creative Divorce Network


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


Father lost visitation for trying to stop psychotic torture of child in #Munchausen by proxy case. Which part of that story is the most shocking?

You may have read about Christopher, a Dallas-area 8-year-old who has been, without exaggeration, sadistically tortured his whole life, completely robbed of a normal life, in an extreme case of "Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy." A dashing and lighthearted name for a horrible, sadistic form of lifelong child abuse; they really should give it a name as serious and awful as it is. It has many vague and forgettable official names, none of which are remotely as ghastly as they ought to be.

Christopher’s mother treated him as if he was deathly ill from his birth until she was arrested last week: feeding tubes, oxygen tubes, heart tubes, hospice, do-not-resuscitate orders, wheelchairs, 13 surgeries, hundreds of hospital visits. She tried to subject him to a lung transplant. But actually, he was always completely healthy, except for life-threatening blood infections from the tubes. 

But what's really more shocking: that there are a few psychotic child-torturers out there, or that the family courts and the medical system protect and enable them, even when the children's fathers discover the truth and try to rescue them?

When Christoper was three, his father went to family court to make her stop, and instead, he lost all visitation. He says the judge refused to look at evidence and condemned him for his refusal to accept that Christopher was dying. Here's what the local paper says now about his court battles:

For years, Crawford said he tried to convince Dallas County family court judges that his son was not sick but they believed Bowen, who would eventually claim that their son was dying, initially from a rare genetic disorder and later from cancer.

Crawford said a Dallas County judge even blocked him in late 2012 from visiting his son, who was then 3.

“It was always the same story: Christopher is dying. The father doesn’t need to be around because he doesn’t know to take care of him,” a tearful Bowen would tell the judges, according to Crawford. “... Every time I went to court, they made me feel like I was the worst human ever.”

The 34-year-old woman is in Dallas County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bond. Her court-appointed attorney did not return a message seeking comment Friday but Bowen denied the allegations last month to CPS investigators.

Crawford said he is grateful that Bowen stands accused of wrongdoing, but remains frustrated that it took so long.

“It’s horrible for my son, or any kid because obviously my son is not the only one that has had to go through this type of torture,” Crawford said. “The system has to be exposed — all the weaknesses that are in the system — because the kids don’t deserve that.”

The allegations against Bowen fit the model for what is known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a disorder in which a person exaggerates or creates medical symptoms to gain attention.

Convincing family court judges that a mother may be medically abusing her child is often a challenge, experts say.

Even in 2017, such medical child abuse is still relatively unknown when compared to other types of maltreatment and “so many court judges are inexperienced in this realm,” said Dr. Marc Feldman, an Alabama psychiatrist who is a national expert and author on Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

“I encounter tone-deaf family court judges a lot,” Feldman said. “They, like most members of the public, can’t let themselves believe that an apparently-loving mother could engage in medical child abuse.

“They are used to seeing gross evidence of physical or sexual abuse — bleeding, bruising, broken bones — and don’t seem to respond to the more subtle indications of medical child abuse.”

Feldman said such judges also tend to treat doctors as “gods who are incapable of error, not realizing that these abusive mothers doctor-shop until they find someone who will acquiesce to their demands.”

Crawford said he recognizes he made mistakes during his fight in the family courts.

Several times, he represented himself — something he now regrets. He said while Bowen seemed to draw on the judge’s sympathy with her claims and tears, he only angered them with his insistence that Bowen was lying.

“I’m not a criminal. I’ve never been before a judge for anything. Of course, I’d seen “Judge Judy” but I thought Judge Judy was fake,” Crawford said. “To see real life Judge Judys, that was something new to me. I’m like, they’re allowed to talk to me like this?”

Though he had court-ordered visitation initially, Crawford said Bowen would frequently cancel at the last minute, claiming Christopher was too sick. She’d tell judges that Crawford didn’t know how to properly care for their seriously ill son, further delaying his visits until he could take court-ordered classes in things like CPR and G-tube care.

Until recently, Crawford’s last visit with his son had been Dec. 7, 2012, when he took the boy’s great-grandmother to Kaylene’s Dallas apartment to see Christopher.

“We went to court two weeks later and Kaylene told the judge that Christopher went into cardiac arrest due to my visit,” Crawford said.

He says at a subsequent hearing, [the judge] said she was taking away Crawford’s visitations with his son since he refused to believe the boy was dying.

“She asked Kaylene, ‘Would you mind if his father sees him one more time before he passes away?’ but Kaylene said no,” Crawford said. ...

In January 2014, he hired a new attorney and filed for custody of Christopher.

When they went before [the judge], Bowen cried and claimed Christopher, then 4, was in a coma.

“ [The judge] immediately stated she’d heard this case and she can’t believe we would drag Kaylene back to court when the child is dying,” Crawford recalled. “She wouldn’t hear the new evidence that included doctor reports that Christopher was not ill.”

... More than three years later and even after Bowen’s arrest, Crawford is still fighting — this time trying to get Christopher out of foster care and home with him.

He said CPS has expressed reservations about moving the boy out of foster care because Christopher doesn’t know his father very well. Never mind, Crawford points out, that Christopher doesn’t know his foster family well either.

“That’s taxpayer money. Why spend all that extra money when he has a father that has been there from day one, that’s been fighting for this?” Crawford said.

Christopher had 323 doctor visits and 13 major surgeries. Here’s why his mom was arrested


The best way to divide Christmas between divorced / separated parents is ...

The author of "What’s the best Christmas contact arrangement for children?"is a wise man, that's for sure. His slogan is, “Mediation is the fence at the top of the cliff, not the ambulance at the bottom.” I share his recommendation for mediation, or using your parenting coordinator if you have one, or even picking one or more neutral-ish friends to consult together to help resolve such issues. I used to know a judge who got in trouble for flipping a coin to decide the issue the parents put before her -- who got which half of Christmas vacation which year -- but I think what she did was precisely appropriate to the nature of the dispute, and made the point that the question should never have been in court at all. Here's how to do better:

What’s the best Christmas contact arrangement for children?