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Nov 08

Family Law

Sharon K. Lieblich

That the Court of Appeals of Virginia has reached its maturity is evident from the court’s recent decisions, which rarely break significant new ground. The last two years have seen the court mainly applying established principles in new contexts, and the most interesting cases tend to be the ones whose unusual facts make them stand out. Consider, for example, L.F. v. Breit, in which a mother who had acknowledged the paternity of the biological father of her child argued—unsuccessfully—that because they had used in vitro fertilization the father had no parental rights. At the other end of the spectrum are the many cases that do not even reach the merits because of some procedural failing on the part of the appealing party, such as not preserving the issue for appeal2 or failing to include the issue in the opening brief.

The General Assembly and court of appeals have attempted to dig out of the hole created by the decision in Hoy v. Hoy by amending Virginia Code section 20-113 to give Virginia courts the authority to enter a qualified domestic relations order (“QDRO”) or other order enforcing a support order and attaching any pension, profit-sharing, or deferred compensation plan as permitted by the Internal Revenue Code or other federal law. But there seems to be no escape from the rule that the designation of a beneficiary of federal life insurance prevails over all legislative efforts to require the beneficiary to convey the proceeds to the widow of the deceased.

The court of appeals continues to issue mostly unpublished decisions, many of which seem appropriate for publication. Sometimes an unpublished decision will address a legal issue of first impression, and even if the facts are quite unusual,it seems unduly reticent of the court not to publish the case.

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Lieblich 481