2013 General Assembly Yields 2 Key Family Law Changes

As citizens of the Commonwealth may be aware the Virginia General Assembly’s 2013 Session has come to a close.  Legislators have been busy drafting new laws which will affect thousands of people throughout the state.  Family lawyers and their clients need to be aware of two news bills which have passed both the Senate and the House of Delegates and now only need the Governor’s signature to become law on July 1, 2013.

Senate Bill 718 and House Bill 1723 have modified Section 20-108.1 of the Virginia Code as it relates to determining child or spousal support. The current law is written to allow judges to deviate from the presumption of support, as set forth by statutory guidelines in Section 20-108.2, based upon several factors. The new bill, and soon to be law, adds to this list of factors which may affect a party’s obligation to pay child or spousal support by: 1) including in consideration of a change in imputed income to a party, that party’s decision to attend a vocational or educational program which is likely to increase or at least maintain his or her earning potential, and 2) any child care costs incurred on behalf of the child/children due to the custodial parent’s enrollment in such an educational or vocational program.  This new law means attorneys and their clients need to fully explore the ramifications of attending classes as it could mean a reduction or increase in imputed income, and thus an overall effect in the amount of child support or spousal support owed.

Senate Bill 1046 and House Bill 1837 have modified  Section 20-99 of the Virginia Code as it relates to filing answers to suits for divorce. Under the current law, if a defendant is served with a divorce complaint in accordance with proper procedures set forth by Section 8.01-296 of the Virginia Code, and the defendant fails to file a timely answer or otherwise timely enter an appearance, no further notice to take depositions in the divorce is required to be served on the defendant and the court can enter a final decree of divorce without further notice. The new bill, and soon to be law, further expands this notice exception to  require no further notice to conduct an ore tenus hearing in a divorce proceeding as well. Such legislation further imposes on parties to a divorce an obligation to timely respond to complaints for divorce or risk becoming divorced without any additional notice or day in court.

Should you need to discuss a potential divorce, custody, or support related issue, please contact the attorneys at Winslow & McCurry, PLLC today.