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3 times someone can modify spousal support orders

On Behalf of | Aug 4, 2023 | Divorce

Spousal support, or alimony, orders are often a source of frustration and contention after Virginia divorces. Spouses receiving support may depend on those funds to establish an independent household, while the spouse paying alimony may worry about covering their own bills while needing to commit a portion of their income to the support of their former spouse.

Those paying spousal support typically need to continue making payments for a specific number of months as ordered by the Virginia family courts or agreed upon with their spouse. However, there are a few circumstances, including the three below, that could justify a modification request or even the early termination of alimony payments.


The spouse receiving alimony will no longer have to support themselves independently when they marry a new partner. As such, remarriage by the recipient (former) spouse is one of the terminating events ending a spousal support obligation under Virginia law. Unless you have an agreement obligating you to continue paying support after your ex gets remarried, you are likely eligible to terminate your spousal support obligation.

Long-term cohabitation

Given that Virginia law states that alimony ends when the recipient spouse remarries, some people starting new romantic relationships after a divorce will choose not to formally commit to their new partner so that they can continue receiving alimony payments. Provided that there is evidence of at over one year’s cohabitation with a new romantic partner in a relationship analogous to marriage, the person paying support could petition to modify or terminate such support. There is a multi-factor analysis the court must consider when assessing whether the recipient is in a relationship analogous to marriage, and no one factor is dispositive, but if you believe your former spouse may be in such a relationship, it is worth consulting with an attorney.

A significant change in income

Virginia spousal support orders reflect not just the need of the recipient, but also the ability of the other party to pay. The loss of the job or a significant reduction in income that is outside of the control of the person paying might justify a request to reduce payments. The key here is that the reduction of income cannot be a voluntary action, or the result of bad conduct on the payor’s part; the stronger the evidence that you lost income through no fault of your own, the better your chances are at meeting your evidentiary burdens.

The courts won’t usually end payment obligations early unless the situation is so severe that there is no reason to believe someone will regain their lost earning potential. Yet, reducing or ending alimony payments (even temporarily) can be a necessary move for someone who is struggling to meet their financial obligations or who has been made aware that the situation no longer justifies the ongoing financial support of their former spouse.

The attorneys at Maddox & Gerock, P.C. are well-versed in these, and other, circumstances that may require a reexamination and potential modification (or termination) of a spousal support obligation. Contact us today.

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