Have you ever been to a Virginia civil court proceeding? It’s truly wild, with fans shouting and a court clerk wandering the crowded aisles shouting, “Fresh laws! Get your fresh, new laws here!” No. It’s not like that at all, even when a law is straight out of the sausage factory in Richmond. The law we’re thinking of was newly minted January 1 of this year, and it speaks to marriages of short duration.
Court May Decree
The legislators in Richmond tinkered with a fine old law, § 20-107.1, to give it a fresh! new! look for 2021. The elected representatives of the good people of the Commonwealth gave Virginia’s courts a kind of bonus round. The courts have discretion to reserve the right to order spousal support for a period of time equal to fifty percent of the length of the marriage (calculated as the wedding date to the date of separation).
This feature of the law (both old and new versions) allows a spouse, who perhaps received no support initially, to ask the court to impose spousal support in the face of financial setbacks. All that’s needed is evidence of “a material change of circumstances.”
Let’s say you divorce with this reservation in place, and neither spouse is supporting the other financially. Both of you were doing well at your work. Then, blammo! COVID-19 hit and you lost your job.
Now you really need that spousal support, since you have custody of your two children. The reservation allows you to return to court (through your family law attorney) to petition for that support anytime from the time of the divorce decree for a period 50 percent as long as your marriage lasted.
So, the longer you were married, the more time you have to petition for spousal support, under good ol’ and new § 20-107.1.
Court Shall Consider
The duration of your marriage plays another role in the same law. A judge has several (13) factors available to be considered when determining support and maintenance. Guess what Factor #3 is. Go ahead. Guess.
Oh, all right, we’ll just show you, straight outta § 20-107.1:
- The court, in determining whether to award support and maintenance for a spouse, shall consider the circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage …. In determining the nature, amount and duration of an award pursuant to this section, the court shall consider the following:
[…] 3. The duration of the marriage;
The judge is able to take into account the connections, traditions, intertwined finances, and other practical matters that develop over years. The briefer your marriage, the easier your extraction and, possibly, the lower the spousal support amount.
How Do You Mean Easier?
Yet a divorce is not strictly about finances. When you wonder if a short-duration marriage makes for an easier divorce, are you considering the emotional burden? What about children? Perhaps your concern is tied to your faith.
In those senses, no divorce is easier than another. A marriage of only a short time may be easier to move on from, to put behind you. We have all had jobs that never show up on our resumes, so in a sense, a marriage of only months can “disappear” from your memories, too.
Extracting yourself from the children resulting from the marriage is not meant to be easier, for either parent. Virginia protects its most helpless citizens vigorously. You and your spouse will have to work out all those nuts and bolts:
- Child custody (both legal custody and physical custody)
- Parenting time (visitation)
- Child support
Some religions frown on divorce; others see the practical side of it as a modern reality. Perhaps your faith leader does not want the two of you setting a poor example for your children. Perhaps you struggle with guilt, if the marriage has weakened due to your actions.
There’s Still Time to Call The Firm For Men!
A hasty marriage and a quick fizzle will not quicken the pace of Virginia’s courts (mostly nothing does). The fastest possible divorce is a no-fault, no-contest divorce, but even that requires six months of separation (if you have no children together) or a year (if you have children). After the separation waiting period has passed, you, your spouse, and each of your family law attorneys can move the process along fairly quickly.
Every separation should include a property settlement agreement. Here, a short marriage may accelerate and simplify the negotiations for the agreement. With fewer years in, you have less to divide. You have fewer knots to untie, fewer financial instruments from which to extricate yourselves.
If you really want your legal troubles to be easier, contact us today at The Firm For Men, or telephone our office at (757) 383-9184. We can answer all your questions about separation, divorce, property settlement, and more.