Spousal Support Reduction Based on a Drop in Payor’s Income
In Virginia, a drop in the payor spouse’s income, even if significant, may not guarantee a reduction in spousal support. As explained in Modification of Spousal Support in Virginia, under Virginia Code § 20-109 a court may decrease or terminate spousal support if there has been “a material change in circumstances” or “as the circumstances may make proper.” Although a court may find a material change in circumstances based on a complete loss of or a drop in the payor spouse’s income, the court may still refuse to reduce the amount of spousal support if it finds that the payor still has the ability to pay.
For instance, in Lamb v. Lamb, although the payor spouse’s income had decreased considerably, the Virginia Court of Appeals refused to reduce the amount of spousal support because the payor had the ability to pay. The Court found that the payor was able to travel, had no credit card debts, had purchased a new car and a boat, had refinanced his mortgage which increased his monthly savings, and was able to meet his spousal support obligation without “invading his assets or depleting his savings.”
Similarly, in Slye v. Slye, the Virginia Court of Appeals found that the payor spouse’s income had decreased, but nevertheless refused to modify the amount of spousal support because the payor spouse still had the ability to pay. The Court found that the payor traveled extensively, had made a $400,000 down payment on a house, and had refinanced the mortgage on his house and by doing so increased his monthly savings.
Likewise, in Driscoll v. Hunter, Virginia Court of Appeals refused to reduce payor husband’s spousal support obligation despite a substantial decrease in his income. The Court held that “[t]he fact that the payor husband may have to draw from other sources, such as the principal of investment or savings accounts, in order to make his spousal support payment does not by itself require the trial court to suspend or reduce his spousal support obligation.”
Therefore, a drop in the payor spouse’s income, or even a complete loss of income, may still not guarantee a reduction in or termination of spousal support as long as the payor spouse has the ability to pay through his or her actual income or by invading into his or her liquid assets.
Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of experienced family law attorneys in Fairfax, Manassas, Leesburg and Fredericksburg, Virginia, who can assist you in all type of spousal support cases, including modification of spousal support. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.