The 2018 session of the Virginia General Assembly made some major changes to the Virginia Code that will affect the issue of the modification of spousal support in Virginia starting July 1, 2018.
Modification of Spousal Support When a Separation Agreement Is Silent About Modification
Until these recent changes in the law, it has been well settled in Virginia that if a separation agreement (frequently referred to as a “marital settlement agreement” or “property settlement agreement”) is silent as to whether an award of spousal support is modifiable due to a material change of circumstances, then the presumption by a court is that the award was fixed and could not be revisited or modified. As a result, some parties were signing agreements with the intent that they would have the ability to modify the spousal support award, but instead, would later discover that because the … Read More »
A new law goes into effect in Virginia on July 1, 2017, giving courts the authority to order a party paying spousal support to maintain an existing life insurance policy for the benefit of the payee spouse. This change to Virginia family law will come from a new statutory provision, Va. Code § 20-107.1:1.
The existing life insurance policies must be on the payor spouse’s life, not the payee spouse’s life. Additionally, the policy must have been issued during the marriage, through the insured’s employment, or be within effective control of the insured provided that the insured party has the right to designate a beneficiary during the marriage and the payee is a party with an insurable interest.
This new Virginia code provision effectively overrules the holding under Lapidus v. Lapidus, 226 Va. 575 (1984). In Lapidus, the Supreme Court held that nothing … Read More »
Divorce can be a lengthy process in Virginia. In no-fault cases, Virginia law requires parties to be separated for at least twelve months, or for at least six months with a separation agreement and no minor children, prior to even filing for divorce. And contested or fault-based divorces can take much longer than no-fault cases—sometimes dragging on for years, depending on the jurisdiction and issues involved. However, in many cases the parties have very real needs that must be addressed prior to the final hearing in their divorce. Thankfully, Virginia law allows courts to enter orders granting “pendente lite” (pending final resolution) relief to address those needs.
Virginia law grants the court the authority to issue pendente lite orders in any divorce case. Either or both parties may file a motion for pendente lite relief, either when the case is initially filed or at any time … Read More »
Many times when it becomes obvious that a marriage is heading towards failure, the question arises whether it would be best to seek an annulment or a divorce. To answer that question, one must first understand how annulment differs from divorce, and the different remedies a court may award upon a divorce vs. upon an annulment.
Many people confuse the legal annulment with a religious annulment. A legal annulment is a determination by the court that the marriage never existed. It can only be granted in a limited number of circumstances that are very rare.
A very small number of marriages may be annulled because they were void ab initio—meaning they were never valid marriages. Those marriages include bigamous and polygamous marriages, incestuous marriages, and underage marriages. See Virginia Code Section 20-38.1. These “void” marriages are deemed to have never legally existed, … Read More »
In Virginia, a drop in the payor spouse’s income, even if significant, may not guarantee a reduction in spousal support. 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 … Read More »
If you find yourself in the middle of a contested divorce and the stakes are high, you may need more assistance than your attorney can provide. With an eye toward preparing your case for trial or simply aiding in the settlement process, several categories of experts can be utilized to bolster your position and create compelling evidence in your favor.
These experts are typically experienced as trial witnesses, and the best ones come armed with CVs that add weight to their testimony and shield them from withering cross-examination. Experts can also prepare reports for use as evidence in court or as tools to bring the parties closer to settlement.
You should consider whether hiring any of the following six types of experts would be a worthwhile investment of time and money in your ongoing divorce:
Business Evaluator: This expert can be critical in cases … Read More »
Imagine a married couple separates and one party moves out of the Commonwealth of Virginia, with no intention to return. The spouse who remains in Virginia wants to pursue a divorce. A circuit court in Virginia can divorce the parties, as long as there are grounds for divorce and the proper procedures are followed. But what if the Virginia resident wants to request spousal support?
For the Virginia court to order spousal support in that situation, it must first find that it has personal or “in personam” jurisdiction over the non-resident. There are several ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction, per Virginia Code §8.01-328.1. There are two, however, that are of particular importance to parties going through a divorce.
First we have Virginia Code §8.01-328.1(A)(8), which provides that a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person who:
…executed an agreement … Read More »
As everyone knows at this point, same-sex marriage is now legal in the Commonwealth of Virginia. On October 7, 2014 Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Order #30 titled “Marriage Equality in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” The order directed all state agencies, authorities, commissions and other entities within Virginia to quickly make any necessary policy changes to afford same-sex couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples.
Now that Virginia allows and recognizes same-sex marriages, same-sex couples will no longer need to travel outside the Commonwealth to resolve their family law issues. Below is a summary of the impact of marriage equality on four areas of family law in Virginia:
1. Divorce. Any couple with a valid marriage from Virginia, a foreign state or country may now file for divorce in Virginia, provided the parties were married in Virginia, last resided as a couple in Virginia, or one spouse has resided … Read More »
Virginia Code Section 20-107.1 provides that pursuant to a divorce, a court may reserve the right of a party to receive spousal support in the future. Furthermore, “in any case so reserved, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the reservation will continue for a period equal to 50 percent of the length of time between the date of marriage and the date of separation. Once granted, the duration of such reservation shall not be subject to modification.”
What does this mean? This means that in lieu of a spousal support award, or in addition to a spousal support award, a Virginia court can grant a reservation for one or both parties to seek additional spousal support from the other in the future.
Why would a spouse not elect to immediately pursue his or her reservation? Because it’s not as simple as … Read More »
Divorce can be financially difficult for both parties, particularly in today’s economy. If you are the breadwinning spouse, you may face special difficulties—which include but are not limited to the following:
Your spouse doesn’t (or refuses to) work, so you may be looking at higher amounts of spousal support and child support.
Your name is tied to all of the marital debts because your spouse doesn’t have good credit.
You’re stuck paying everything: a mortgage, two car payments, and massive credit card debt that is more than you can afford.
Your spouse recklessly increases your debt, and only you are held responsible.
Your spouse has requested pendente lite support and attorney’s fees to help him or her carry on the divorce lawsuit.
Unfortunately, these are examples of some of the pitfalls that come with being the breadwinning spouse. Here are four tips to help protect yourself before, during … Read More »