Last calendar year brought a fresh crop of bills, new ideas, and some actual laws to the books in Virginia. As we have previously for 2017, here we present some of the winners and losers of the past legislative year.
Losing Family Law Bills in 2018
We start with losers so we can finish feeling positive. Legal losers are not necessarily bad ideas; they just did not make it to the governor’s desk for a signature.
First up, Senate Bill 39, which (had it passed) would have affected Virginia’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (JDRDC). The Bill related to a fee for filing certain petitions in JDRDC. It attempted to repeal the $25 filing fee charged for starting a custody or visitation case.
Rather than pronounce it well and completely dead, though, the legislators voted 14-0 to “pass it by indefinitely,” meaning it could, theoretically, come up again. Someday.
Another little failure caught in the throes of democracy was Senate Bill 64, which (we know the suspense is killing you) died in a 14-0 vote. SB 64 would have required judges to communicate the basis of a custody or visitation decision to the interested parties in writing.
Current Virginia law allows a decision to be communicated either orally or in writing. This may not sound like a big deal, but consider how much we trust the written word, and how little weight we place in the spoken word.
Another sad legislative death was Senate Bill 70, which had real promise to improve the lives of divorced, disabled Dads in Virginia. The bill, which failed to clear committee, would have prevented a parent’s disability from being the sole basis of a denial or restriction of a parent’s custody or visitation rights.
Let’s say someone (the other parent, for instance) alleged that a parent’s disability is not in the best interests of the child. That accusing person would have, under this bill, had to prove that the child’s best interests would not be met by the disabled parent.
Another small failure this past year was House Bill 149, about Child Support Orders. It tried to order the Department of Social Services (DSS) or Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) to redirect child support payments.
Say a parent had physical custody of a child, so child support payments were moving from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the health and well-being of the child. If that custodial parent lost custody, then DSS or DCSE would have redirected payments to the new custodial parent. This bill never left the subcommittee to which it was assigned.
Our state legislature does aspire to noble causes from time to time. Unfortunately, one such aspiration, House Bill 248, languished in committee. It would have established a two-year pilot program called the (brace yourself; maybe have a nap before reading further) Responsible Employed Active Loving Parenting Pilot Program (REAL Parenting Pilot Program).
The REAL Parenting Pilot Program (which never went for broke with REAL PPP, for some reason) would have provided 50 noncustodial parents an opportunity to reduce money amounts owed for accrued interest on child support. The program would have applied only to parents owing at least $2,000 and would have reduced their debt by 25 percent if they attended classes, another 25 percent if they got a paying job, and a reduction in interest if they made good on child support payments for a year.
Our last stop on our Misery Tour is House Bill 414, which would have eliminated the various prohibitions on the state law books against same-sex marriage. This essential housekeeping will be necessary at some time, since the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) legally allowed same-sex marriage throughout the United States effective June 26, 2015, in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision.
Winning Family Law Bills in 2018
To end on a high note, we present the bills that managed to work their way through both houses of the legislature and get signed into law by the governor.
First out of the gate, Senate Bill 540, related to modifications of spousal support. effective July 1, 2018.
The law, in Chapter 538 now, allows retirement to be considered a “material change in circumstance” for modification of child support. Most people, upon retiring, find their finances finite, dwindling, and not completely foreseeable. This law arrives as a relief, since the retiring parent can now ask the court for a reduction in child support payments due to the loss of steady income.
Virginia House Bill 1351 was another success story. This law also became effective July 1, 2018 and provides the legal basis for no presumption in favor of either parent regarding three types of custody:
- Joint legal custody
- Joint physical custody
- Sole physical custody
A sharp attorney representing your interests will realize the benefits of having multiple options with regard to child custody. Maybe your ex-wife runs a great household and fully deserves physical custody, but is (harsh as it sounds) not the greatest at making decisions. Perhaps you should have joint legal custody, so your contributions to decisions about religion, medical attention, and education can be heard.
A great way for our legal issue to be heard is to pick the winning team of The Firm For Men. Call our offices at 757-383-9184 or contact us online. We can build winning strategies for you in all aspects of Virginia family law. We also keep up with the ever-changing landscape of legal decisions and laws coming out of Richmond. Please allow us to help you, to give you the best chance to win your divorce, child custody, domestic violence, or spousal support case.