Public Comments for: HB69 - Best interests of the child; assuring frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
It appears that many of the comments below focus on victims of domestic violence and how HB69 supposedly removes protections for these victims. This is simply not true, and saying so serves as a distractor to what this bill seeks to do in the best interests of all of Virginia's children (as validated by 40+ empirical studies over the last several decades). There is no language in this bill that removes any of the existing and important protections for victims of abuse; these protections are already outlined and cited in the best interest factors and other Virginia statutes. This bill would only apply when children have two competent and willing parents, who want to be involved in their lives. If abuse or neglect are present, this bill would not apply, per the already existing best interest factors. This would have been clear to any of the previous respondents if they had taken the time to read the bill.
Virginia Poverty Law Center opposes HB 69 because it diminishes the longstanding "Best Interests of the Child" factors judges must consider in making custody and visitation arrangements in favor of a parent's arbitrary request for the judge's assurances of "frequent and continuing contact with both parents so as to maximize the amount of time the minor child spends with each parent [...]" Abuser parents could use this provision to continue to manipulate and control a victim-parent. This is a dangerous precedent that unravels longstanding precedent, is unnecessary, removes judicial discretion, and gives an abusive parent carte-blanche in a custody or visitation proceeding.
Members of the House of Delegates Courts of Justice - Subcommittee #2, I request that you vote "No" on HB 69 until the Commonwealth of Virginia passes laws ensuring that a child's safety is the first priority in family court adjudication. A child’s safety should not override a parent’s access to the child. Currently, the law does not provide protection from parents who psychologically, emotionally, or verbally abuse their children. As the mother of a child with disabilities, a domestic violence survivor, and a community advocate, I know firsthand how extremely detrimental these traumas can be for a child. House Concurrent Resolution 72 passed by Congress in 2018 provides excellent data about the impact on children’s safety. Respectfully, I urge a no vote.
Good afternoon members of the House Courts of Justice Civil Subcommittee. On behalf of Virginia’s 67 sexual and domestic violence agencies, the Virginia Action Alliance strongly opposes Delegate Davis' HB 69. Year after year, we stand alongside the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the Family Law Coalition, the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia, and parenting victims of domestic violence to oppose this unnecessary, confusing, and incredibly harmful bill. Creating a presumption in the code to favor shared parenting time in these volatile and often dangerous relationships communicates to the courts that victim and child safety is not paramount. For victims of domestic violence (who share children in common with their abusers), this change to code would require the courts to more carefully consider and further litigate the grounds for abuse to assure “frequent and continuing contact” with the abusive parent. Essentially, this change would create asymmetry, placing a greater burden on the victim of domestic violence to prove that their abuse is a detriment and/or danger to them and their children and therefore more important than assuring frequent and continuing contact. Ongoing child custody and separation litigation for parenting victims is already incredibly costly, all too lengthy, and traumatic for the non-abusive parent who is fleeing violence. Not only would this proposal serve to dilute and trump factors in determining the best interests of the child, but it would contradict all best available research evidence which consistently tells us that the most important and compelling factors ensuring healthy childhood and family development do not include frequency of time spent with both parents, but rather, the quality of time spent with healthy and non-abusive parents. For more than 25 years, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, nationally recognized public health and family/child development researchers, and domestic violence practitioners across the nation have found this to be true - in research, theory, and praxis. It would be unwise and frankly, dangerous for Virginia to adopt changes to the law, like HB 69, which contradict and undermine national best practices. On behalf of sexual and domestic violence victims all across Virginia, we strongly oppose this bill and we urge you to as well. Thank you.
I say no to these because for the sake of the children mental health after domestic violence/ abuse sometimes the abusive parent continues their abuse after post separation and legal abuse. The children have the right to choose what they need. In an abusive situation the judges should not turn a blind eye to it, they should protect the children since they are the future. Always believe survivors and children to tell the truth.
No!! This is not always the best interest of a child. It can do so much damage to a child.
Dear Delegates: I write in my capacity as a both a board member of the Children's Rights Council (CRC) and also as a licensed Virginia attorney in good standing with 24 years of experience as a family law practitioner in Northern Virginia and previously in Virginia Beach in the early 1990's for another 4.5 years. CRC is a national joint custody advocacy organization founded over thirty years ago. Based on CRC's ongoing review of the substantial body of social science research studying outcomes for children in joint and shared custody compared to children in sole custody over the last forty years, children in joint custody have better outcomes on every measure of child well being studied. Our neighboring jurisdiction of Washington, DC now has had a rebuttable presumption for joint/shared custody for more than twenty years, with good results. Likewise, Texas has had a rebuttable presumption for joint custody ("Joint Managing Conservatorship") which was signed into law by the late Governor Ann Richards and then expanded by Governor George W. Bush. HB 69 is wonderful opportunity for Virginia to join with DC and Texas in establishing a rebuttable presumption for shared parenting which still allows the trier of fact significant flexibility to fashion a parenting schedule with the goal of maximizing each parent's available time with the children without mandating a strict fifty-fifty formula for parenting time. Much as in the District of Columbia, the presumption for maximizing each parent's custodial time in HB 69 does NOT apply where the trier of fact finds material evidence of child abuse or neglect or finds domestic violence by a preponderance of the evidence. There are substantial existing protections in Virginia's statutory scheme to protect bona fide victims of DV from their abusers and to protect children. In my experience, there is a high level of awareness on the part of judges, Court personnel, family law attorneys, guardians ad litem and among social workers and mental health professionals involved with domestic cases, all of which serve to significantly reduce actual and potential risks to children and victimized parents from a small minority of abusive parents. The Violence Against Women Act since 1994 also has provided billions of dollars for support services for abused parents and their children and this continues unabated. The well developed and heightened awareness and resources addressing this important issue should give all Delegates a measure of confidence that the proven and demonstrated benefits of shared parenting can be safely ordered in the vast majority of cases where most children have loving, caring, responsible and operating within normal boundaries of parenting behavior. The argument that a small minority of parents seeking shared parenting may have ulterior motives should not be allowed to deny the much greater majority of our State's children all the actual and potential benefits of shared parenting. I urge the Delegates on the Committee and the full House of Delegates and Senators to give children in Virginia the best possible opportunity to enjoy the maximum benefits of fully two fully involved parents whenever possible. HB 69 will be huge step in the right direction for Virginia's children and parents. Our motto at CRC is "The Best Parent Is Both Parents." Please make a rebuttable presumption for shared parenting a reality in Virginia.
To the members of the House of Delegates Courts of Justice - Subcommittee #2, I ask that you vote "no" on HB69 until the Commonwealth of Virginia passes laws that will ensure that children’s safety is the first priority in family court adjudication. Courts being focused on contact with both parent’s neglects to recognize that all parents are not safe for children mentally or physically. The child's right to grow up in a safe and healthy home should out weigh the parents' right to access the child. Current law does not provide protection from parents who psychologically, emotionally, or verbally abuse their children. Coercive Control also needs to be addressed and acknowledge in family court cases. I know from personal experience how seriously detrimental this treatment of a child can be due to the trauma caused in my own children. My daughter is currently suffering from PTSD and various other health issues due to these types of abuses by her father. My son, who is still currently in the system, is also dealing with debilitating issues from the visits and regular contact with his father. The amount of money and time required to be spent to correct and treat these childhood traumas through psychological treatment and medication could be avoided by first evaluating each parent's ability to raise a child in a healthy home. In September 2018, the House of Representatives passed House Concurrent Resolution 72, which provides excellent data as to why allowing equal access to children is dangerous. It also lays out ways in which states can work to make child safety the main priority in child custody decisions. I encourage you to thoroughly look into these issues so you can see the need to vote “no” on HB69.
To the members of the House of Delegates Courts of Justice - Subcommittee #2, I request that you vote "no" on HB69 until the Commonwealth of Virginia is able to pass laws that will ensure the child's safety is the first priority in family court adjudication. The child's right to grow up in a safe and healthy home should trump the parents' right to access the child. Current law does not provide protection from parents who psychologically, emotionally, or verbally abuse their children. I know for a fact how seriously detrimental this treatment of a child can be due to the trauma caused in my own childhood by my father and now in my journey to protect my own child from her abusive father. The amount of money and time required to be spent to correct and treat these childhood traumas through psychological treatment and medication could be avoided by first evaluating each parent's ability to raise a child in a healthy home. In September 2018, the House of Representatives passed House Concurrent Resolution 72, which provides excellent data as to why allowing equal access to children is dangerous. It also lays out ways in which states can work to make child safety the main priority in child custody decisions. You may find this document, uploaded.