No-Fault Divorce: Removing the Corroborating Witness Requirement in Virginia?
In the 2021 legislative session, Arlington Delegate Patrick Hope once again sponsored a bill (HB No. 1911) that would remove the corroboration requirement in no-fault divorces. This antiquated statute requires that a third party witness must testify under oath that they have been in your home on more than one occasion since you separated and personally witnessed that you aren’t cohabitating with your spouse.
Virginia is the only state that requires third-party corroboration for both fault-based and no-fault divorces, and one of only three states that requires it for no-fault divorces.
The corroboration requirement is a holdover from the early 20th century when no-fault grounds for divorce did not exist. Corroboration was required to prevent “collusion” between the parties—so two spouses were prevented from agreeing to fabricate one party’s adultery or abandonment in order to qualify for divorce. Yet, no-fault divorce by definition allows spouses to collude and jointly decide to get a divorce, so there is no longer a need for corroboration.
Many people simply do not have anyone who would qualify as a witness; it is often a difficult or impossible task to find someone who has entered your home on more than one occasion during the period of separation and could attest that you were not cohabiting with your spouse. Often, divorcing spouses end up asking family members to essentially lie under oath for them.
For the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has precluded most people from entering others’ homes, so this requirement will become even more impossible to prove.
In 2020 this bill passed the House yet failed in the Senate. This year it passed in the House, and the Senate has continued it to the 2021 Special Session.
We are eagerly awaiting the results of the Special Session and the passage of this bill. There is no reason to keep the corroboration requirement in a no-fault divorce. The sole purpose of this law is to make it more challenging for Virginia residents to get divorced.
Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA)
In 2021, Arlington Delegate Rip Sullivan introduced the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (HB 1852).
The Collaborative Process involves divorcing couples voluntarily finding mutually agreeable solutions that address the needs of the entire family with the assistance of a team of professionals working together. The Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA) provides a framework for the standardization of the Collaborative Process and will hopefully increase public awareness of Collaborative divorce as an option for separating couples. Common Collaborative law matters include divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal support, and premarital agreements. You can read more about the Collaborative Process and other alternatives to court litigation in our blog post here.
HB 1852 unanimously passed in the House and was also continued to the Special Session. We look forward to the passage of this bill as it provides much-needed updating of the law in Virginia to reflect the growing field of Collaborative law.
If you have questions about a no-fault divorce or a Collaborative divorce, the award-winning attorneys at MDMB are ready to help answer your questions. Schedule a consultation today to learn how this new legislation could impact your family.