2012 LAWS THAT MAY AFFECT YOUR CHANCERY PRACTICE

May 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here is the final list of 2011-2012 legislative session bills that passed both houses. Some of these are awaiting the governor’s signature.

HB 159. Revises confidentiality in domestic abuse cases. Although this statute is among the criminal procedure laws, it offers some guidance for the chancery/county court practitioner who handles domestic violence cases about who is entitled to confidentiality in such cases, what information should be treated as confidential, and some means to accomplish it. Signed by the Governor. Effective July 1, 2012.

HB 484. Judicial pay raise. Discussed here before. Signed by the governor.

HB 780. Revises jurisdiction in domestic violence cases. This bill makes several significant changes. Venue is in the county where the alleged abuse occurred, and if the case is filed in the wrong county the judge “shall transfer” the action to the appropriate venue. A chancellor presented with a petition for emergency relief may refuse to consider it, but not for the sole reason that it should have been filed in justice or county court instead. The obvious problem with requests for emergency relief in chancery is that they can be used to “poison the well,” so to speak, or to prejudice the chancellor for or against a party in a pending divorce case. This bill makes many other changes to the law that you need to be aware of if you do any domestic violence practice. It has been signed into law by the governor, and takes effect July 1, 2012.

HB 1157. Conforms DHS child support enforcement to federal requirements. A few minor tweaks to the law, passed in conference, not yet signed by the governor.

HB 1268. Revises various statutes pertaining to adoption. If you do any adoptions at all, you must get familiar with this bill. It amends MCA 93-17-3 to add the requirement that a home study be done in all adoptions, and to provide that no out-of-state residents may adopt unless they have first complied with the Interstate Compact for Placement of Children, and adds some post-placement reporting requirements. It requires that the Indian Child Welfare Act be complied with as a prerequisite to adoption in appropriate cases. It amends MCA 93-17-6 to require DNA testing when the father appears or contests, and, most importantly, clarifies the publication requirements for an unknown father. It adds an interesting qualifier to the provision that the parental rights of a father who has not “met his full responsibilities of parenthood” be terminated by tacking on the phrase “and is unwilling to do so,” changing, in my opinion, the emphasis from past non-performance to past non-performance coupled with future unwillingness.  The bill passed conference and is awaiting the governor’s signature.   

HB 1588. Appropriations for the judicial branch.

HB 2256. Prohibits sex offender access to MYCIDS, beaches and campgrounds. This bill adds more proscriptions against sex offender activity where they may come into contact with children, prohibiting them from beaches and camp grounds where children gather. They are also prohibited from accessing the youth court MYCIDS data base. The bill also permits youth court referral to drug courts. Signed by the governor. Effective in part on passage, and in part on July 1, 2012.

HB 2367. Clarifies the definition of abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults. Amends MCA 43-47-5 and other statutes to clarify the definition of abuse and neglect as it relates to vulnerable adults. Signed by the governor. Effective July 1, 2012.

Click on this link to view a list, with links, of all the legislation affecting courts that passed during this session.

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