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AG backs fix for nonlawyer signatures on motions

The attorney general’s office is sponsoring a legislative fix to a problem that it doesn’t believe really exists.

The issue is the practice of having nonlawyers sign motions to hold in contempt parents who are delinquent in their support obligations.

Kimberly J. Daniel, a juvenile and domestic relations district judge in Fairfax County, ruled in October that Virginia Code § 8.01.271.1 requires such pleadings to be signed by an attorney.

A logical extension of that ruling, and one pressed unsuccessfully in a federal lawsuit last year, is that thousands of such orders are unenforceable because they are void ab initio.

A more practical problem is that those nonlawyer employees could be guilty of practicing law without a license, said Craig M. Burshem, a senior assistant attorney general who represents the Department of Child Support Enforcement. That’s a risk he is unwilling to run, he said.

Although he said he disagrees with Daniel’s ruling, he has directed that an attorney sign all such motions.

As a permanent fix, the office has asked Del. Sal R. Iaquinto, R-Virginia Beach to introduce House Bill 1382, which would amend Virginia Code § to 16.1-260 and related statutes to make it clear that nonlawyers can file such motions.

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