Public Comments for 01/18/2023 Courts of Justice - Subcommittee #2
HB1386 - Interlocutory decrees or orders, certain; appeals, report.
I am Lawrence Diehl, an attorney with Barnes & Diehl in Richmond, Va. I have practiced family law for over 48 years and over 30 years I have done 108 appeals to the Virginia Court of Appeals. I strongly support hb1386. I assisted Sen. Surovell and legislative services in the draft language on interlocutory appeals for a similar bill S831 which I also support. We need to restore the restrictions on appeals in family law to FINAL ORDERS only which had been Virginia law for decades prior to 2022. If pendente lite orders in family law cases can be appealed, that will result in a flood of new appeals which will be used by angry or vindictive spouses merely to delay the finality of a divorce case- that delay would be around 9-12 months based on normal appeal processes. Trial courts would lose jurisdiction over the case once an appeal is filed. That is against the strong public policy in Virginia in finality of family law matters to the delay of such proceedings, negatively impacting the parties and their children. Further, in assessing the number of new Virginia Court of Appeals judges needed for their expanded jurisdiction, the data analysis did not consider at all the volume or impact of interlocutory appeals in family law cases. By allowing such appeals, the Virginia Court of Appeals will be understaffed and lacking resources due to the volume of these unanticipated appeals by the recommending committee which led to the current expanded jurisdiction of the Virginia Court of Appeals. The omission of family law case exceptions to interlocutory orders was an oversight when the 2022 amendment on this topic was amended. Hb1386 restores the Virginia Court of Appeals jurisprudence to final orders only, just as it had been for decades and decades prior to 2022. And this bill is needed to resolve the uncertainty of family law jurisdiction over interlocutory appeals in a case now pending in the Virginia Court of Appeals called Choi v Choi. A decision on its jurisdiction is pending. Please enact this bill.
I sent comments relating to the need to restore the law on interlocutory appeals in family law cases per hb1386. However, I meant those comments to refer to hb1386, not hb1385. I support hb1386 for the reasons stated in my prior submission.
HB1412 - Judges; maximum number in each judicial district.
HB1431 - Contributory negligence bar; abolished.
The Virginia Taxicab Association ("VTA") has grave concerns about HB1431, which as we understand it would abolish the doctrine of contributory negligence as it has been applied in the Commonwealth. We believe that it would promote frivolous lawsuits by encouraging negligent parties to pursue claims for damages and will give rise to more complex and costly litigation. We would also point out that among those states with bars on contributory negligence are Virginia's neighboring states of North Carolina and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia. The VTA urges that, at a minimum, this bill be carried over and the matter be the subject of an appropriate study before the consideration of such a significant change in longstanding public policy, in order that the potential effects on the Virginia courts, businesses, citizens and others be more fully understood.
HB1493 - Best interests of the child; assuring frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
My name is Betty Wade Coyle and I am a retired child advocate. I am writing against this bill . HB1493 is anything but in the best interest of children. It is a bill that puts the parents right before the children's rights and has been sponsored on behalf of the father's rights movement. What it does do is create a presumption that "the court shall, upon the request of either party, assure a minor child of frequent and continuing contact with both parents so as to maximize the amount of time the minor child spends with each parent," Then the court can consider the exceptions that involve the best interests of the children. Basically what this bill does is put the parents' right before the children's rights in every case. Additionally, this bill is unnecessary because courts currently can order maximum time with both parents if that is determined to be in the best interest of the children. I respectfully request that you oppose this bill (HB1493). Thank you for your consideration.
As someone who has had to navigate the family law courts for the last 6+ years reading this bill brings literal tears to my eyes. What a step back this would be for and already broken system. My children’s other parent has an extensive criminal background that includes assaults, drug and alcohol related charges and 2 convictions of DUI. He was also charged with domestic violence against myself for beating me and dragging me around our house in front of our then 3 year old children. Because of Virginia’s first offender treatment program my abuser has no record of an official conviction of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only incident. Like many victims of abuse, I hid a lot. I would stay home until the bloody lips and bruises healed or cover them with long sleeves and pants. I finally left for good, but the abuse continues through the children and through the court system. They beg not to go, they cry, they come home with injuries, bruises, terrible stories, and fear. Their spirit is broken. No one listens to us. No one has protected us. I sometimes find myself regretting leaving because now I cannot protect my children when they are court ordered to go to their other parents house. I would have rather taken the abuse and been able to protect them. It is already extremely difficult for safe parents to fight for their children’s rights. The focus needs to remain on the children’s best interest. Not the parents. The courts already have the power to grant maximum custody time to each parent based on best interest of the child factors. There is already a lack of protection for children. Laws are already outdated for abuse. This bill makes if even more difficult for safe parents and their children to be protected. Look at the research. Putting a limit on time abuse can be considered? Only considering what falls under the outdated legal definition of abuse? This would be detrimental to the child who is screaming they don’t want to go to the other parent because they aren’t safe. It mutes their already muffled voices in this incredibly broken system. Most of the families in the court system have a background of high conflict and complex issues that requires knowledge of such. Most of the families that would benefit from a bill like this settle before getting to court. HB1493 puts a one size fits all approach to a topic that is FAR from a one size fits all. Again, the court already has the power to grant the maximum custody they see fit for both parents. This bill would cause an incredible amount of burden and harm to the already struggling families that are trying to navigate through the family court system to prove the best interest of the child. For the families and especially the rights of children, please vote NO for HB1493.
I'm a single mother of a 10 year old boy (named Cole). My child was thriving in my primary custody for most of his life, getting good grades, happy and healthy. In 2020, I lost primary custody during a custody trial (verbal only) when my lawyer tried to present evidence to support my ex-husband was alcoholic and the court dismissed the evidence since it was Covid and documents were supposed to be shared 10 days before trial and my lawyers missed that change in process and judge didn’t accept it afterwards and shut down the topic when it was brought up during verbal trial. I had primary custody from 2016 - 2020. My ex-husband got a DUI (driving under the influence) in May 2021 and guilty conviction in Feb. 2022, in fact the guardian of my son was the one that discovered the arrest. Though my child was not in the car that time when he got arrested, the DUI report stated he had a blood alcohol level of 0.17. Please note that my son was dropped off 4 hours before he got a DUI. My child (at the time was 8) did convey to his guardian ad litem in 2021 that his dad has driven drunk multiple times while he is in the car and gave blow by blow details of how he closed his eyes in the back seat hoping his daddy doesn't crash, but the guardian stated that I coached my son with no basis to tell him this and never gave that info my son disclosed back to the judge. The judge nor the guardian never put into any consideration about changing 50/50 shared parenting time from the new custody order from 2020 after guilty DUI conviction which suggests callousness in regards to my child's safety and well-being. Even though the judge changed legal custody in 2021 with me making final decision authority due to his constant harassing and hostile behavior towards me with co-parenting. At this point in time, VA courts are already awarding 50/50 to fathers, even when they clearly pose a safety risk to someone with alcohol and verbal abuse and this bill would make it automatic, even worse for moms and kids like us. If this bill passes, then I wouldn’t have had any chance to have primary custody even though I no longer do now. This bill would negate the issues of my son’s father’s long standing alcohol and verbal abuse and just focus on his parental rights not the child safety factors. I feel the courts states that I married this person with alcohol abuse I should just accept that father has rights and not think about my child safety. Finally, passing this bill, would also just put a blanket generalization on custody cases when each custody case should be taken on direct evidence and a case by case basis. Thank you for your time to read this testimony.
The provisions in the proposed HB1493 are bad policy – bad for children, families, and courts. The proposals put forward in HB1493 are not supported by valid research. Please vote NO on this bill. The vast majority of child custody arrangements (approximately 90%) are settled out of court. The small percentage that must be adjudicated typically involve complex problems, including abuse. Research shows that due to trauma, lack of resources, limited access to adequate legal representation, bias, and a number of other disadvantaging factors, survivors of domestic abuse who are parents already typically struggle in custody litigation to reach the necessary burden to prove abuse or risk and protect their children from a dangerous ex-partner. HB1493 would make staying safe even more challenging than it already is for such parents and children at-risk of harm. HB1493 would change VA child custody law to automatically grant dangerous parents 50% custody (or as close to it as possible) before the court could consider what is in the best interest of the child as it currently does. The essential purpose of custody decisions is to ensure the best interests of the child, not the parents. Courts do so by considering many factors, including the safety of the child, the child’s relationship with each parent, and many other factors that are important for the child. Courts are already able to, and often do, grant maximum custody time to each parent when they deem such an order appropriate for the individual child; equal or near equal custody is already a frequent outcome of custody litigation and settlement. This bill would make it even more difficult for safe parents to keep their children with them and out of harm’s way, would reduce the court’s discretion to do what is best for children, and would increase protracted litigation for struggling families. On behalf of VAs children and families, please vote NO on this dangerous and unnecessary bill.
It is important to reject HB1493. Why? It vandalizes a child's right to parenting that meets the child's best interests. The existing factors-based determination our courts use is tailor made to the undulating landscape where custody and visitation decisions are made especially when a parent has spurious motives and tendencies toward domestic abuse . This bill would effectively hijack the existing multifaceted approach to these decisions and at the same time bring into being a bill that can be weaponized by an abusive parent to the detriment of vulnerable children. The complex nexus of domestic violence and the juvenile and domestic relations court cannot be over emphasized and that is particularly why the House should not deem to tamper with the Code where if it is not broke do not attempt to fix it. Reject HB 1493 and let the court do its job based on extant statutory law.
Contrary to the text of HB1493, the provisions of this bill go directly against the best interests of hundreds of children with an abusive parent. The language in this bill sets a dangerous and inaccurate precedent that frequent contact with both parents for all children is best. The court has a duty to approach each case with an objective review of evidence presented that determines the best interest of the child. Requiring that each case is approached with the presumption that frequent contact with both parents is best threatens this ability. Further, it relies on a severely insufficient legal definition of abuse and goes against current research in child psychology and expert recommendations for fostering a healthy environment for children. A comprehensive synopsis of family custody cases found "“best interests” considerations priorities the maintenance of perpetrator/child relationships, and thus “abuser’s rights” over victim safety. Judicial officers are not experts in domestic violence and they can only make decisions on the basis of the evidence before them, the assessments made by the “experts” likely play an important role in best interest considerations. Of concern is current research that calls into serious question the expertise of these “experts” when it comes to proceedings involving allegations of coercively controlling violence." Download here: https://www.mdpi.com/2075-471X/5/1/14 Please vote no and refrain from reconsidering again until the safety of children with an abusive parent is prioritized and enacted into law. This bill prioritizes parents rights before securing the best interests of children. Voting yes on this bill is a grave act of violence against hundreds of children and families.
Please reject this initiative, which would result in a failure to protect the welfare of vulnerable children whose parents are abusive. The current standards of review on behalf of children',s well being offer necessary and rightful protections which should not be reduced or eliminated.
Dear Delegates: I strongly oppose any proposal that unilaterally prioritizes parental rights over the best interest of the child. Simply put this legislation is life and death to those caught in the grips of domestic violence. To date, Virginia has had twenty children murdered by a parent involved in a custody dispute. The couples who cannot come to agreement on the best interest of their child(ren) because of the dynamics of abuse desperately need sociological jurisprudence. Adding an additional layer of parental rights over the best interest of the child will ensure that Virginia judges get it wrong. These children do not get “do-overs” and their path in life is forever altered because an abusive parent was given access. Carly Sawyer (5) Starved/beaten by Father/Stepmother. Norfolk, June 2009 Sierra Ragin (15) Stabbed to death by Father. Warwick, August 2011 La’Kwan Ragin (11) Stabbed to death by Father. Warwick, August 2011 Rasheed Ragin (6) Stabbed to death by Father. Warwick, August 2011 Jesus Quintero Colon (10) Shot by Father in in murder-suicide. Accomack, December 2011 Ana E. Quintero Colon (9) Shot by Father in in murder-suicide. Accomack, December 2011 Alexis Jackson (13) Shot by Father in in murder-suicide. Fairfax, March 2012 Madison King (3) Stabbed/Carbon monoxide by Father. Hanover, January 2012 Caroline King (3) Stabbed/Carbon monoxide by Father. Hanover, January 2012 Onesha Washington (13) Shot by Father in murder-suicide. Culpeper, August 2014 Onya Washington (6) Shot by Father in murder-suicide. Culpeper, August 2014 Olivia Washington (4) Shot by Father in murder-suicide. Culpeper, August 2014 Alexis F. Kellas (9) Shot by Father in in murder-suicide. Chesterfield, June 2014 Keytrell Kelly (2) Shot by Father in in murder-suicide. Richmond, October 2014 Seth Jernigan (2) Shot by Father in in murder-suicide. Chesterfield, June 2014 Griffin Lane Palmer (17) Shot by Father in in murder-suicide. Washington, February 2014 Leah Rogers (1) Shot by Father. Chesterfield, May 2015 Tasha Jonas (11) ) Shot by Father in in murder-suicide. Norfolk, May 2015 Brooklyn Michelle Youngblood (5) Shot by Mother. Fairfax, August 2018 Sharon Youngblood (4) Shot by Mother. Fairfax, August 2018 Source: Center for Judicial Excellence: US Divorce Child Murder Data – Virginia I hope you agree that Virginia's children are worthy of this consideration. I greatly appreciate your time, thank you. Donna Sykes
Dear House of Delegates Courts of Justice Subcommittee #2 Members, Tomorrow you will be voting on HB 1493. A variation of this bill has been presented to you every year that I have closely followed the General Assembly Session, which has been since 2019, and every year it fails. I request that you please vote "no", in opposition of this bill once again. This bill stands to take precedence over the Best Interest Factors already established in Virginia Code, which is the current standard of how child custody is determined. The Commonwealth of Virginia needs to pass laws that will ensure the child's safety is the first priority in family court adjudication. A child's right to grow up in a safe and healthy home should trump a parent's right to access the child. Current law does not provide protection from parents who psychologically, emotionally, or verbally abuse their children or who use their contact time through phone and video calls to harass and take time away from the other parent. 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 prevent, correct, and treat these childhood traumas through psychological treatment and medication could be avoided by having a professional who has completed extensive training on domestic abuse and coercive control thoroughly evaluate each parent's ability to raise a child in a psychologically healthy home. Thank you for considering my position.
HB1541 - Evidence of medical reports, etc.; testimony of health care provider or custodian.
HB1549 - Wrongful death; death of parent or guardian of child resulting from driving under the influence.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) urges you to support HB 1549 by Delegate Campbell to require impaired drivers to pay child support when an impaired driver causes a crash that kills a parent or guardian of a child under 18. HB 1549 is modeled after Bentley’s Law enacted in Tennessee, which makes impaired drivers pay child support to a surviving spouse or other relatives who are raising the children of victims until the children turn 18. MADD supports Bentley’s Law as long as child support payments made by impaired drivers do not replace other civil remedies sought by victims. The problem of drunk driving increased 21% from 2019 to 2020 in Virginia. The problem of drunk driving is getting worse in Virginia. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 286 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in Virginia in 2020. This is an increase of 21% from 2019, when 237 people died in drunk driving crashes. HB 1549 better ensures justice and accountability. MADD believes that passing this proposal will make people think twice before getting behind the wheel impaired. If a person makes the choice to drive impaired and kills a parent, the person will encounter another consequence for their deadly decision. To the victims of the impaired drivers, this proposal allows for another avenue of restitution to help ensure justice. Enclosed is a Q and A document on Bentley's Law implementation.
HB1581 - Child custody, etc.; educational seminars approved by Office of Ex. Sec. of Supreme Court of Va.
HB1615 - Statute of limitations; medical debt payment period.
I support HB1615
HB1720 - Divorce; cruelty, reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, or willful desertion or abandonment.
HB1990 - Juvenile and domestic relations district courts; appointment of counsel or guardian ad litem.
HB1991 - Juvenile and domestic relations district courts; concurrent jurisdiction, suits for divorce.
HB1992 - Juvenile and domestic relations district courts; notice of appeal to the circuit court.
HB1996 - Summons for Unlawful Detainer form; plain English instructions for interpretation of form.
HB2252 - Magistrates; appointment and supervision.
Please Vote YES on HB2252. This makes the Magistrate system more responsive for training and accountability. Having had a few encounters with Magistrates on behalf of accused individuals with special needs, the system lacks any sort of document tracking system (they do not keep records). this will allow for the legal oversight of a key entry piece into the justice system.
HB2290 - Judgment or child support order; pregnancy and delivery expenses.
I am Lawrence Diehl, attorney who has practiced family law for 48 years and for around 20 years served on the Child Support Quadrennial Review Committee, serving for some years with Del. Leftwich. I oppose hb2290 for the following reasons: 1. We already passed last year Code sec. 20-108.2(D1) which sufficiently protects a birth mother for the recovery of pregnancy expenses. We don’t need this bill 2. Child support by statute and years of case law cannot be ordered retroactively prior to the “filing” of a petition for child support. See 20-108.1(B) This bill is inconsistent with our decades of law and attempts to permit support PRIOR to the date of filing- back to the date of conception. 20-108.1(B) prohibits this- it just can’t be done by law. 3. Paying bereavement costs and wage reimbursements to a mother based on % of TOTAL wages based on guideline %s as now amended - still is a de facto spousal support payment - payments not limited to just a child support computation but based on GROSS wages. These payments between unmarried parties for the benefit of the mother since this is for her above child support- is in substance in the form of spousal support. This has never been permitted in the history of Virginia law unless parties are married. By allowing such support this will be, for the first time in Virginia history - support for an adult by unmarried parties- again, clearly in the nature of spousal support. This could reverse decades of Virginia law on this issue contradicting our public policy of only permitting such support between married parties. 4. The implementation of the bill will be inconsistent between court ordered support and the voluminous administrative orders issued by the DCSE. I have spoken with Craig Burshem of DSS and he indicates DCSE workers, many of whom are not attorneys, would not be considering the expenses provided by this bill/ they will only be doing the basic guideline calculation That is not fair. There should not be two separate standards used- one by a judge in court and one by the DCSE. The inconsistency of results in child support orders this bill would create is unfair. 5. This bill is actually a back door effort by the administration to declare a fetus as a person or child. The award of support to a fetus from date of conception raises serious constitutional issues of when life begins. And if pregnancy expenses can already be awarded now per our statute passed last year, what extra expenses are needed by a fetus? Why is “child” support even needed for fetus when a fetus does not need clothes, food, educational costs- none of the elements for which child support is based. Clearly this bill is a very veiled attempt to provide precedence to declare a fetus as an actual person being a “child”. Virginia should categorically reject such an attempt. I ask that hb2290 be defeated. Thank you and if anyone needs to call me on this - my cell phone is 804-763-9631.
HB 2290 contains some very weird provisions. For example, some parents would have to pay more than their entire income in child support. If the father is making the minimum wage and the mother is unemployed, he would have to pay her for "paid maternity leave" at "the minimum wage if the mother is unemployed." So he would be paying her for family leave at the same wage he himself is getting. He would have to do that while also paying other forms of child support as well: He would also have to pay her nine months retroactive child support based on his monthly income, back to the "date of conception," in addition to "pregnancy" and "delivery" expenses, and pay current child support based on his monthly income, pursuant to Va. Code § 20-108.2(B), and also for various other expenses, see, e.g., Va. Code § 20-108.2(E). (The original version of the bill required the "legal father" to pay "least 50 percent" of all these expenses, but the revised bill apparently mandates payment "in proportion to the parents' gross incomes," which would mean the father would bear 100% of the expenses in this example). Such a requirement will backfire and harm custodial parents. When fathers are ordered to pay obviously unpayable amounts, they give up, and pay less, resulting in custodial parents getting less, according to child support officials. See Office of Child Support Enforcement, Family and State Benefits of Debt Compromise, August 18, 2022 (available at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/css/policy-guidance/family-and-state-benefits-debt-compromise) ("Parents who owe large child support debts are more likely to become discouraged and leave formal employment, further compromising their ability to support their children. This is partly because up to 65 percent of disposable income can be withheld from the paychecks of nonresident parents owing arrears...This high withholding rate can have the unintended effect of pushing low-wage parents out of a job, because the remaining paycheck is often too little to survive on. Child support debt can lead to increased job-hopping, participation in the underground economy, and generation of illegal income as parents try to support themselves and their children and avoid the child support program."); Yvonne Wenger, Maryland Should Overhaul Child Support System and How Payments Are Set, Abell Foundation Says, Baltimore Sun, June 18, 2019 (citing a study, and quoting a former federal child-support chief and a women's advocate) . The bill would also require many fathers to bear more than the actual costs of the child, further increasing the risk that they will be unable to pay. The father would have to pay both "pregnancy" and "delivery" expenses, and 9 months retroactive monthly child support based on his income back to the "date of conception." But the only actual child-related expenses during pregnancy are for "pregnancy" and "delivery," so for the bill to also require monthly child support under Va. Code § 20-108.2(B) back to the "date of conception" results in the father having to pay twice for the same expenses, once as "pregnancy" and "delivery" expenses, and then again as retroactive monthly child support.
Please vote NO on HB2290, which contains extreme provisions.
We completely favor a robust child support program, but we fear that HB 2290 will harm rather than help children. In Virginia, as in most other states, massive uncollectible arrearages have accumulated because a “more is better” impulse has imposed unsustainably high burdens on child support obligors. See, e.g., the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) guidance at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/css/policy-guidance/family-and-state-benefits-debt-compromise and the report by Vicky Turetsky, former head of OCSE at https://abell.org/publication/reforming-child-support/. Excessive child support obligations lead to defaults which lead to sanctions like loss of driver’s licenses which lead to loss of employment which leads to even less ability to pay and destroys the relationship between parent and child. HB 2290, we are sure, is offered with good intentions, but it is solely a “more is better” proposal with absolutely no analysis of its impact on ability to pay. Payment of pregnancy expenses is mandated without reference to availability of medical insurance. HB 2290 even demands reimbursement to the government if government funds helped pay for the pregnancy. HB 2290 also mandates payment of maternity leave. HB 2290 also mandates payment of child support from the date of conception before there is a born child in need of support which is a pure “double-dipping” on top of the payment of pregnancy expenses. HB 2290 also mandates payment of bereavement leave. All of these are on top of the existing child support obligations in Virginia which already cause the massive accumulation of uncollectible arrearages as described above and at the links provided. HB 2290 will cause severe disruption to thousands of families by imposing impossible burdens and magnifying the negative consequences of a system that already generates uncollectible arrearages by imposing unsustainably high burdens on obligors. Respectfully submitted, S. Horning For The Boys Initiative
*Please ignore my initial comment and instead refer to this corrected version This bill is discriminatory, unfair, biased, and should go no further than this subcommittee. This bill is badly drafted and not written in a gender-neutral fashion. The existing child support guidelines are gender-neutral, and don't single out "the legal father.” But this bill allows a second parent to avoid responsibility, unless the second parent is a man. Sometimes a child has two mothers, yet this bill does not take that into consideration. The bill states “in the case of assisted conception, the donor shall not be considered the legal father.” This means “the legal father” is required to pay support for prenatal periods, and at least 50 percent of paid leave, but a second mother never does, even if that mother was directly involved in the conception of the child. The bill makes "the legal father" pay for "at least 50 percent" of the equivalent of 60 business days paid leave to the mother even when (1) the mother isn't taking any leave from her job, and/or (2) the father plays an equal or greater role in raising the child (such as if father is on leave or can work from home), and/or (3) the mother was unemployed, and thus is not on leave from any job, and thus isn't losing any income, or (4) the father makes far less than the mother. And this is on top of any child support the father would owe under existing law. The mother is already getting paid maternity leave. That is unfair. Why should an unmarried father have to pay for such leave that costs the mother nothing? A married father has no such responsibility. Whether married or unmarried, a father is a father and should have equal rights. There should not be discrimination against an unmarried father, which this bill allows for.
HB 2290 appears to result in double-dipping of expenses, resulting in an unfair windfall to the mother at the expense of the father. The mother could get paid twice for the same pregnancy-related expenses, or get paid for both daycare and family leave at the very same time. It also contains gender-based double standards. Va. Code 20-108.2(D)(1) already awards child support for "unpaid expenses of the mother's pregnancy and the delivery of such child." But the bill uses the existence of those same pregnancy expenses to make "the legal father" pay monthly child support for all 9 months of pregnancy, all the way back to the "date of conception," on top of any expenses awarded under Va. Code 20-108.2(D)(1) or elsewhere. Existing law already awards child support for daycare expenses (Va. Code 20-108.2(F)). But the bill would let mothers collect child support for a monetary value "equivalent" to 60 business days of family leave, even if they aren't taking leave, but are working, and as a result, the father has been ordered to pay daycare expenses. So a mother could collect both daycare expenses for the infant, and the value of the family leave she isn't even taking. It could also result in fathers being ordered to pay for the value of family leave the mother will never take and doesn't need, such as where the father or others are caring for the child. The comment by Family Reunion is right to say that "The bill makes 'the legal father' pay for 'at least 50 percent' of the equivalent of 60 business days paid leave to the mother even when (1) the mother isn't taking any leave from her job, and/or (2) the father plays an equal or greater role in raising the child (such as if father is on leave or can work from home), and/or (3) the mother was unemployed, and thus is not on leave from any job, and thus isn't losing any income, or (4) the father makes far less than the mother. And this is on top of any child support the father would owe under existing law." (Family Reunion might be mistaken, though, to say mother can collect both from the "employer and...from the legal father," because the bill has language later on about things "already .... reimbursed by an employer." But it's not clear, because that language follows the requirement to pay monthly child support from "the date of conception" under Va. Code 20-108.2, rather than the earlier requirement to award family leave expenses. As Family Reunion points out, this is a "badly-drafted bill"). As another comment rightly points out, this bill "would also create a family leave obligation for only fathers, not mothers. It would create big uncollectible child-support arrearages, and also be unfair to fathers by making them pay for the value of family leave the mother isn't even taking, and pay for the value of family leave even when the mother isn't losing a dime of income, and pay for the value of family leave even when the father is raising the kid. It would lead to huge retroactive child support arrearages by ordering child support back to 'the date of conception.' Fathers would suddenly become liable for 9 months extra child support during pregnancy. Not even states that are pro-life or restrict abortion do this, because [monthly] child support isn't designed for prenatal expenses," but rather is "based on the estimated cost of raising kids who are already born."
This bill is discriminatory, unfair, biased, and should go no further than this subcommittee. This bill is badly drafted and not written in a gender-neutral fashion. The existing child support guidelines are gender-neutral, and don't single out "the legal father.” But this bill allows a second parent to avoid responsibility, unless the second parent is a man. Sometimes a child has two mothers, yet this bill does not take that into consideration. The bill states “in the case of assisted conception, the donor shall not be considered the legal father.” This means “the legal father” is required to pay support for prenatal periods, and at least 50 percent of paid leave, but a second mother never does, even if that mother was directly involved in the conception of the child. The bill makes "the legal father" pay for "at least 50 percent" of the equivalent of 60 business days paid leave to the mother even when (1) the mother isn't taking any leave from her job, and/or (2) the father plays an equal or greater role in raising the child (such as if father is on leave or can work from home), and/or (3) the mother was unemployed, and thus is not on leave from any job, and thus isn't losing any income, or (4) the father makes far less than the mother. And this is on top of any child support the father would owe under existing law. The mother is already getting paid maternity leave. This is like double-dipping--first from her employer and second from the legal father. That is unfair. Why should an unmarried father have to pay for such leave that costs the mother nothing? A married father has no such responsibility. Whether married or unmarried, a father is a father and should have equal rights. There should not be discrimination against an unmarried father, which this bill allows for.
Please vote NO on HB 2290, a badly-worded bill that imposes child support from "the date of conception" and would also create a family leave obligation for only fathers, not mothers. It would create big uncollectible child-support arrearages, and also be unfair to fathers by making them pay for the value of family leave the mother isn't even taking, and pay for the value of family leave even when the mother isn't losing a dime of income, and pay for the value of family leave even when the father is raising the kid. It would lead to huge retroactive child support arrearages by ordering child support back to "the date of conception." Fathers would suddenly become liable for 9 months extra child support during pregnancy. Not even states that are pro-life or restrict abortion do this, because child support isn't designed for prenatal expenses. State child-support guidelines are based on the estimated cost of raising kids who are already born. Many parents simply could not afford to pay nine additional months of retroactive child support, which would be thousands of dollars they would suddenly owe on top of, and in addition to, the thousands of dollars they already need to pay in child support under existing law. The bill is also unfair, because it orders fathers to pay the mother the value of 60 business days of family leave even if the father is taking care of the kid, or the mother isn't on family leave, or won't use the money for family leave, or the father is poorer than the mother. HB 2290 requires "the legal father" to pay "at least 50 percent of the equivalent of the mother's paid maternity leave," but that is not the actual cost of leave to the mother, or the amount of leave she is actually using. Instead, "'Paid maternity leave' means the equivalent of 60 business days at the mother's hourly wage if the mother is employed, or the minimum wage if the mother is unemployed, for eight hours per day for a total of 480 hours." So even if the father is taking care of the kid, he can be ordered to pay the mother the value of maternity leave, even if she is not paying any costs, and maybe even if she wouldn't take maternity leave even given the opportunity. For example, the mother gets to collect the value of paid maternity leave, even if she isn't taking leave, because she was unemployed and thus isn't losing income. Sometimes, it is the dad who is responsible for much of the child care of an infant, like when he can work from home or has access to family leave from his employer. When that's true, it's wrong to order him to pay the mother for paid maternity leave. That's especially true when the mother isn't on leave from a job, such as if she is unemployed for reasons unrelated to childbirth, and is being supported by well-to-do family members. Or if she wouldn't take leave anyway, such as for reasons of career advancement. If a new mother has daycare expenses from working after giving birth, the father can already be ordered to pay those daycare expenses as child support under existing law, and the current child-support guidelines, without any need for this bill. But the mother shouldn't be able to collect BOTH daycare expenses AND the value of family leave she isn't even using from the father -- that would be like having your cake and eating it, too. The father shouldn't be ordered to pay both real AND imaginary expenses.
This bill creates gender-based obligations, which seems unconstitutional. Doesn't that violate the Supreme Court's decision in Orr v. Orr, 440 U.S. 268 (1979), which ruled that support obligations can't be based on gender? The bill is also unfair, because it orders fathers to pay money for family leave even when the mother isn't actually on leave, and orders fathers to pay money for periods when the mother doesn't actually have any child-rearing costs, such as early in her pregnancy. The bill creates gender-based obligations. Under the bill, "the legal father" is ordered to pay "child support" "beginning at the date of conception" and including "at least 50 percent of the equivalent of the mother's paid maternity leave." But a mother has no such obligation, ever, under the bill, even if the child has two mothers, and regardless of whether the second mother is a transgender mother who provided the sperm for the conception, or a cisgender mother who didn't give birth, but who agreed to the pregnancy via assisted conception. The bill states, "For the purposes of this section, in the case of assisted conception, the donor shall not be considered the legal father. " So a father who didn't give birth to the child has the obligation to pay support, but a mother who didn't give birth to the child doesn't (even if the legal mother is a transgender mother who was involved in conception, either through intercourse prior to her "sex change" or through use of sperm collected and stored prior to the gender transition). This qualifies as sex discrimination for purposes of the Constitution and federal law. (See the Supreme Court's decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020)). The bill makes fathers pay for family leave even when the mother isn't on family leave, such as if she was not employed, and thus didn't lose any income from the birth of the child. It requires the father to pay "at least 50 percent of the equivalent of the mother's paid maternity leave," even if the mother isn't taking any leave, or even "if the mother is unemployed" and thus is not sacrificing income to take care of the child. That seems unfair. The bill makes fathers pay for "child support ... beginning at the date of conception of the infant." But while life may begin at conception, child-rearing costs don't. Most expenses related to children begin near the time of birth, not conception. During the earliest stages of pregnancy, women often don't know they are pregnant, much less incur costs from being pregnant. One in three women only learn they are pregnant after six weeks. Unborn children don't incur daycare expenses or use up diapers. The bill makes fathers pay for child support under the Virginia child-support guidelines, Va. Code Section "20-108.2," but that guideline was developed based on the major cost of raising children who are already born, not the minor cost of nurturing a growing fetus or accommodating a body changing due to pregnancy -- like a mother eating a bit more as the unborn child grows, or buying maternity clothing. The total cost of my unborn daughter prior to her birth, for all 9 months, was less than $200 (prenatal vitamins + 3 pairs of cheap pants + 1 body pillow + maternity pantyhose + a few boxes of Eggo waffles due to increased appetite at breakfast time). By contrast, child support for a household with our income would be well over $1000 per month under Virginia's child support schedule, just for one child.
This bill unjustly discriminates based on sex and marital status. It would order the father to pay for the value of paid maternity leave that the mother is already getting at no cost from her employer, when the father is already paying child support to support the child. The bill would order the father to pay at least 50% of the value of paid maternity leave -- even though that leave costs the mother nothing because it is paid leave, so she doesn't need to be reimbursed for it. This could result in fathers being ordered to pay thousands of dollars beyond what they can afford. For example, I had months of paid maternity leave after I gave birth to our daughter. That was worth many thousands of dollars. I didn't expect my husband to pay me for that leave, which cost me nothing. So I don't see why an unmarried father should have to pay for such leave that costs the mother nothing to use. A married father has no such responsibility, and doesn't have to pay the mother for paid leave that she is getting at no cost. Why should an unmarried father have greater obligations than a married father? All parents have an equal duty to take care of their kids, regardless of marital status. The bill also allows men, but not women, to be ordered to pay more than half of childbirth and family leave expenses. The "father," because of his gender, has to pay "at least" 50 percent of these expenses under the bill -- potentially more than 50%, but never less. That's unfair and discriminatory, especially when the father has a lower income than the mother.
HB1385 - Divorce; affidavit submitted as evidence, minor children of the parties.
I am Lawrence Diehl, attorney in Richmond. I have testified on family law legislation for over 30 years before the GA and have practiced family law for over 48 years, co- author of Va Family Law Treatise and have done approximately 108 appeals to the Va Ct of Appeals. I support HB 1385- the current statute regarding appeals of interlocutory orders passed last year inadvertently omitted the limit of appeals in domestic relations to FINSL orders which has been Virginia law for decades. We need to restore the law to appeals only of final orders only, otherwise this will open up a floodgate of appeals of pendente lite orders, many by angry or disgruntled parties just to delay divorce proceedings which would delay divorce proceedings by 9-12 months. This would be a terrible result, especially the lack of finality of proceedings which is not in the best interests of families or the public interest in Virginia. The Coalition favors this bill. I personally worked with Sen. Surovell and legislative services in drafting this part of the bill. It is greatly needed as there already us pending in the Virginia Court of Appeals a case attempting to appeals a temporary support order- Choi v Chou - and a ruling on the issue of whether the Virginia Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over such orders is pending. The law needs to be restored to the pre-January 1, 2022 law and statute (17.1-405) by limiting family law appeals to final orders Further, I have reviewed the report and data leading to the expanded jurisdiction of the Virginia Court of Appeals in order to provide adequately judges and resources for that Court. The studies did not address at all the flood of interlocutory appeals in family law cases as that was not anticipated by the rules study group. If temporary orders can be appealed, that will create a huge volume of appealed cases and clog the Virginia Court of Appeals with a volume not expected and that will create a lack of judges to address such additional appeals. I strongly ask for the enactment of HB 1385.