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Bill strengthens family mediator confidentiality

Family law mediators’ right to keep certain information confidential will be enhanced under a bill passed by the Virginia House of Delegates and awaiting action in a Senate courts committee.

House Bill 1795, which passed the full House on Jan. 22, eliminates two provisions that require disclosure of financial information obtained to complete a child support guidelines worksheet in the course of a mediation, when the parties have not reached an agreement.

These provisions conflict with a mediator’s duty of confidentiality, which prompted a recommendation from the Committee on District Courts to make the statutory changes. Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, who practices domestic relations law, carried the bill in the House.

Virginia Code § 8.01-576.10 governs confidentiality of dispute resolution proceedings. Currently, the last clause in the statute qualifies the duty of confidentiality by making an exception in disputes over child support. It allows for sharing financial information, including information in a  in a worksheet to determine support under the statutory support guidelines and written reason to deviate from the guidelines. Under existing language, the financial information “shall be disclosed” to each party and to the court, for the purpose of computing basic support.

That language in Code § 8.01-581.22 and in a companion statute, Code § 8.01-581.22, would be stricken under the House measure.

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