Family Law

In the past year, Virginia courts have addressed a range of family law questions—new and old—that reflect the changing landscape of families and marriage. Questions related to same-sex marriage and divorce have begun to appear on Virginia court dockets, including an important case the Supreme Court of Virginia decided this year with respect to same-sex couples cohabiting and the termination of spousal support. Family law courts also saw shifts in gender norms—wives paying spousal support to their husbands and fathers being awarded physical custody of their children. These legal questions tested the limits of statutory language and helped to expand the legal understanding of marriage, family, and parenthood. In addition, recurring questions about entry into and exit from marriage persisted. Courts addressed varied claims relating to marriage validity, equitable distribution, separate property, spousal and child support, and visitation rights. This brief article provides an overview of some of the most salient cases, and those cases that will most likely have a lasting impact on this state‘s family law jurisprudence.

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This article reviews significant recent developments in the laws affecting Virginia state and local taxation. Each section covers legislative activity, judicial decisions, and selected opinions or pronouncements from the Virginia Department of Taxation (the “Tax Department”) and the Virginia Attorney General over the past year. Part I of this article addresses state taxes. Part II of this article covers local taxes, including real and tangible personal property, natural gas consumption tax, recordation tax, and administrative local tax procedures. The overall purpose of this article is to provide Virginia tax and general practitioners with a concise overview of the recent developments in Virginia taxation that will most likely impact them. However, this article does not discuss many of the numerous technical legislative changes to Title 58.1 of the Virginia Code covering taxation.

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Wills, Trusts, and Estates

The 2016 General Assembly of Virginia made substantial changes in the augmented estate rights of surviving spouses. It also modified and codified the rules governing powers of appointment. Other legislation affecting wills, trusts, and estates included clarifications and technical corrections relating to such subjects as creditors’ claims to life insurance and annuities, courtcreated trusts, protection of adults from exploitation, creditor protection for residential property, unclaimed assets, guardianships, and nonstock corporation procedure. Five decisions of the Supreme Court of Virginia addressed fiduciary conflicts, tenancies by the entirety, lost wills, contract rights in residences, and nocontest clauses.

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Foreclosure of a Deed of Trust in Virginia

Home ownership is a cornerstone of success in America. People seek a stable job, a great marriage, 2.5 kids, and a brick house with a white picket fence. Those who don‘t have that life, dream of it. That is why it is called ?The American Dream.? Home ownership is a sign of stability and community. An owner has the opportunity to accumulate wealth in the form of equity. The mortgage market is inseparably commingled with the overall well-being of the national economy. The state of the housing market is simultaneously an indicator of and a contributor to the health of the economy. When foreclosures rise to unhealthy levels, it hinders the recovery of the economy as a whole.

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Analyzing the Virginia Workers‘ Compensation Act‘s Governance of Employer Non-Compliance

Workers‘ compensation schemes across the country, including in Virginia, were established for the important purpose of creating a streamlined system whereby employees who suffered an injury in the course of employment could, irrespective of fault, recover some monetary relief therefor and whereby employers would be simultaneously protected from potentially crippling financial liability.

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The Will to Prevail: Inside the Legal Battle to Save Sweet Briar

Sweet Briar College was established over a century ago by the will of a prominent Virginia landowner, Indiana Fletcher Williams, as an institute for the education of young women. Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on a breath-taking 3250-acre former plantation, the campus is a National Historic District and home to twenty-one buildings on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Chartered in 1901 by the Virginia General Assembly, the school officially opened its doors in 1906.

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COMMENT: Grow Up Virginia: Time to Change Our Filial Responsibility Law

In recent years, Virginia‘s filial responsibility law has been used for purposes not contemplated by its original architects. For example, it has allowed a brother, who had run his mother‘s finances into the ground, to sue his sister to hold her liable for his financial mistakes, burdening her with substantial litigation fees. The law has provided a forum for a stepfather to retaliate against his wife‘s children after the children petitioned the court to replace him as their mother‘s guardian.

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COMMENT: Innocent Suffering: The Unavailability of Post-Conviction Relief in Virginia Courts

In 1984 in Richmond, Virginia, Thomas Haynesworth was convicted of raping two women and indicted for raping three others. The first rape occurred on January 3, 1984. The assailant attacked his victim at her place of employment, threatened her with a knife, and raped her. On January 21, another woman was sodomized and robbed at knife point in Richmond. On January 30, a man pointed a gun at a woman and forced her into a secluded wood. The man forced the woman to orally sodomize him. He also unsuccessfully attempted to rape her. While committing these crimes, the gunman told the woman this was not his first time, but he usually used a knife rather than a gun. On February 1, a gunman confronted a woman in front of her Richmond home, and forced her back inside.

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The Constitutional Limits of Client-Centered Decision Making

Todd A. Berger *

Some years ago in a courtroom in Philadelphia, I found myself in a rather troubling predicament. My client threatened to stab me with a pen. I was his defense attorney. My client had been charged with a gunpoint robbery. He was picked out of a random photo array by the complainant a few days after the incident occurred. If we lost the trial, he was going to receive a sentence of at least ten to twenty years in prison.

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Truth or Doubt? An Empirical Test of Criminal Jury Instructions

Michael D. Cicchini *

Lawrence T. White **

The Constitution protects a criminal defendant from conviction unless the government can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the Constitution does not require that trial courts use any particular set of words when defining reasonable doubt for the jury. Instead, a broad range of jury instructions have been deemed constitutionally acceptable, provided they do not diminish or dilute the government‘s high burden of proof.

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