The Fairfax County Circuit Court recently issued an opinion that sheds light on an important aspect of Virginia divorce law: when divorcing parties include a provision for spousal support in a separation agreement that is incorporated into a divorce decree, that spousal support can only be modified later if the language of the agreement specifically allows for modification.
In Gordon v. Gordon, the parties divorced in 2003 after signing a separation agreement that provided for an award of spousal support (alimony). The Agreement made support non-modifiable, stating:
The husband agrees to pay to the wife, as and for her non-modifiable support and maintenance, the sum of One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) per month, the initial payment to be made on the first day of the month following execution of this Agreement by both parties, and to continue in consecutive monthly installments on the first … Read More »
The Virginia General Assembly’s 2013 session has come to a close, and the Governor has signed two new bills related to family law that were passed by the Senate and House of Delegates. Effective July 1, 2013, these bills will change Virginia family law in four very important areas:
Deviation from child support guidelines. Virginia law establishes that child support be calculated according to guidelines which establish a “presumptively correct” amount of support, but then allows courts to “deviate” from the guidelines amount based upon a list of potentially relevant factors. Effective July 1, 2013, the list of factors which might justify deviation is expanded greatly (from five factors to 15 factors), which could have profound effects on support calculations in certain cases.
Child care costs incurred while attending educational or vocational programs. Under current law, many custodial parents attempting to obtain additional … Read More »
Suppose you live in Woodbridge or Manassas, and are a stay at home parent, a military spouse, or perhaps you work but just happen to make much less money than your spouse. Suddenly, your spouse declares that he or she wants a divorce. Your spouse wants to walk away from the marriage, the house, and the marital debts, to live on their own. But you cannot afford to pay the mortgage, your bills, or your debts all on your own. Once your spouse leaves, the creditors are at the door. The house is facing foreclosure. What do you do?
The short answer is: seek pendente lite (temporary) support from your spouse from the courts of Prince William County.
Please note: Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park all share a combined court system, so whether you are a resident of Woodbridge, Lake … Read More »
In any separation, divorce or custody dispute, a party might seek financial support. It may be a request for spousal support to get back on their feet. It may be a request for child support. Whatever the type of family support sought, there are two basic strategies for resolving the dispute: negotiating an agreement or litigating a case through the courts. If one party is a military servicemember, however, there may be alternate methods available to settle these issues.
Each service branch has regulations requiring servicemembers to support their families in the event of a separation. The service branch involved can have a great deal of impact when deciding to pursue support through the servicemember’s command. Some branches, like the Army, issue very specific regulations, spelling out the exact dollar amount they will provide, the length of time it will be … Read More »
The Virginia Court of Appeals has taken a major step in redefining cohabitation “in a relationship analogous to a marriage” under Virginia Code 20-109(A).
Virginia Code 20-109(A) provides for termination of spousal support “upon clear and convincing evidence that the spouse receiving support has been habitually cohabiting with another person in a relationship analogous to a marriage for one year or more.” That Code provision directs courts to terminate spousal support “unless (i) otherwise provided by stipulation or contract or (ii) the spouse receiving support proves by a preponderance of the evidence that termination of such support would be unconscionable.”
Clients frequently ask what “cohabiting with another person in a relationship analogous to a marriage” means, and how to either avoid such a situation or prove that one exists. Virginia Code 20-109(A) does not provide a definition, so attorneys are left answering … Read More »
Many family law cases, whether resolved through court order or a separation agreement, include payments from one party to the other. Typically these are separated out into different actions – spousal support, child support, dividing bank accounts, or even paying the other party’s expenses. What you transfer to your spouse, or receive from your spouse, can make a huge difference when it comes to your annual income taxes.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rule addressing this situation is on the surface quite clear. In Publication 504, the IRS states that alimony payments are deductible from income by the person paying alimony, and must be included as income by the spouse receiving the alimony payments. Looking up alimony in the dictionary will tell you that alimony is the same thing as spousal support, but unfortunately it is not that easy. The IRS … Read More »
Let’s say you’ve just lost your job.
This is not a far-fetched idea for most people. In the past four years, the United States has gone through the longest period with so many unemployed for so long since the Great Depression.
Let’s say you were earning $140,000 a year as a consultant before being let go. You lived comfortably with your family in an affluent neighborhood in an excellent school district.
Let’s also say that now you’re in the process of a divorce from your wife of 15 years. You have two young children and she’s always been their primary caretaker. She has two years of post-high school education, and worked as a salesperson at the local mall until you had kids together. Then she became a stay-at-home mother, and it was agreed that you would be the sole breadwinner until the children … Read More »
A recent op-ed published by The New York Times makes the argument that states should adopt set guidelines for determining alimony awards. The editorial, “Ending the Alimony Guessing Game,” argues that making spousal support awards more predictable would result in more fairness and less costly litigation.
This argument is absolutely correct. Adoption of a strong statewide spousal support formula in Virginia would take a lot of the guesswork out of most alimony cases, resulting in more settlements of contested divorce, and saving parties thousands of dollars in legal fees in many cases.
As I previously wrote on this blog, in Is It Really Cheaper To Keep Her (Or Him)?, Virginia law does seem to be moving toward more and more reliance on certain guidelines in determining spousal support– most commonly the so-called “Fairfax guidelines.” Virginia has now adopted the Fairfax guidelines statewide for … Read More »
Virginia Code Section 20-103 provides that in any case where spousal support or child support is in dispute, a Virginia court may enter an order of temporary support pending the conclusion of the suit. Section 20-103 applies in suits for divorce, annulment, and separate maintenance and also in spousal support and child support proceedings brought in the juvenile and domestic relations district court (“JDR Court”).
Such a “pendente lite” order of support will last until the conclusion of the case, at which time the court may order more or less support, or no support at all, depending upon the facts of the case.
For child support, the statewide guidelines, which establish a “presumptively correct” amount of support, apply equally at both pendente lite and final hearings.
For spousal support, a JDR Court that is determining a request for pendente lite spousal support must … Read More »
In alimony or child support cases, Virginia law allows the court to find a party is “voluntarily underemployed” and to calculate support based on a higher income than he or she is actually earning. As the Virginia Court of Appeals has written, “[a] court may under appropriate circumstances impute income to a party seeking spousal support. This conclusion logically flows from the principle that one who seeks spousal support is obligated to earn as much as he or she reasonably can to reduce the amount of the support need…. A spouse may not choose a low paying position that penalizes the other spouse.”
Virginia Code § 20-107.1 directs the trial court to consider as a spousal support factor each party’s earning capacity. For child support, imputed income is a deviation factor listed in Virginia Code § 20-108.1(B)(3). The court must first determine the presumptive guidelines amount, … Read More »