By John Whitbeck

The Virginia General Assembly enacted several changes to the law that have a significant impact on families going through domestic relations cases. Below is are some highlights of the more significant changes:

  • Sexual abuse, child abuse, and acts of violence are now considered by the court in custody cases, along with the previous “family abuse.” (Va. Code 20-124.3)
  • Healthcare records of a child have been accessible by both parties except in extreme circumstances, regardless of their custody. No child’s daycare records were added to this right of access by both parents. (Va. Code 20-124.6).
  • In 2018 the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act abolished child tax exemptions from the tax benefits of federal income tax filings. However, the federal government increased the child tax credit to $2,000 per child. Va. Code 20-108.1 was amended to allow the court to apportion both the exemptions and the credits to a parent. (Va. Code 20-108.1).
  • In a significant development for divorces, from now on, if you assert your 5th Amendment privilege to testify about allegations of adultery, a Judge now can take an adverse inference against you for that assertion. While this wouldn’t necessarily prove adultery by itself, it can have an impact on whether a Judge finds a spouse guilty of committing adultery. (Va. Code 8.01-223.1).
  • As long as you file a case for child support within six months of the child’s birth, you can now get a court to order reimbursement for a portion of pregnancy and delivery expenses. (Va. Code 20-108.2).
  • Spousal support is always modifiable now unless a settlement agreement expressly states that the amount and duration of support are not modifiable. (Va. Code 20-109).
  • The prohibition on same-sex marriages was repealed formally to match the already established law legalizing them by court ruling a few years ago. (Va. Code 20-45.2, 20-45.3).