Let's imagine that you were the primary breadwinner in your marriage. This was the case for years, but the marriage fell apart. You got divorced, and the court ordered you to pay spousal support. Does that mean you need to support your ex indefinitely?
Not necessarily. You may be able to petition the court for a modification of your spousal support. Virginia law allows for the modification or termination of spousal support in the wake of significant changes to either party's circumstances.
What is a significant change?
When awarding spousal support, Virginia's courts weigh several factors, including the duration of the marriage, the spouse's ages, incomes, education, and assets. To modify your spousal support agreement, you need to show evidence of a life change such as:
- Your ex remarries or moves in with another partner for at least one year.
- You lose your job.
- Your ex completes a graduate degree and embarks upon a lucrative career path.
- Your stock portfolio collapses.
- Your ex inherits valuable property.
- You reach retirement age.
If you've experienced a change like the above, a modification might be the right option for you.
How do I go about getting my spousal support modified?
To modify your spousal support, you must first petition the court.
The court will consider modifying your support payments if you can show a material change in the circumstances it considered earlier when it awarded the support. The court then reviews the financial situations of each party and decides on the new amount for the reward.
What about termination?
Termination is typically only an option if you can prove that your ex has remarried or has been living with another partner for at least one year.
Are there cases in which spousal support cannot be modified?
Prior to July 1, 2018, divorce settlements that did not specifically account for modification were considered permanent and could not be modified. All divorce settlements signed after July 1, 2018, however, can be changed unless they have language that specifically prevents modification. In such a case, those settlements are permanent and cannot be modified.
The process is meant to be just.
When the court awards spousal support, it does so according to the belief that the failure to award support would lead to "a manifest injustice." But life is unpredictable, and circumstances can change. If new circumstances appear to make the old award unjust, a lawyer may help you petition the court to change your spousal support.