Ugh. The judge decreed it. You pay it. Month after grueling month of paying spousal support, and for what? Well, if you really want an answer, spousal support could be money for classes so your ex-wife can learn a marketable skill. Whatever good may come from spousal support, you know you want to pay less, and soon.

The Basics of Spousal Support

Spousal support, informally called alimony, is maintenance and financial support for your ex-spouse as ordered by Code of Virginia § 20-107.1, titled “Court may decree as to maintenance and support of spouses.”

The purpose of spousal support is to cushion your spouse as divorce takes hold, so that she is not left unable to provide for herself. It is meant to keep her in the style of living she has become accustomed to, not indulge her with bonbons and fainting couches.

The law provides 13 factors affecting the amount a judge dictates for spousal support, which also provides you with 13 arguments for modifying the amount downward at a later date.

Pendente Lite Spousal Support

The briefest possible spousal support will be pendente lite (“pending litigation”) support, which is effective only between separation and the final divorce decree. This is law under Code of Virginia § 16.1-278.17:1. The conditions and limits for this pendente lite support expire with the granting of the divorce by a Virginia Circuit Court, though those conditions may be baked into a property settlement agreement and last into divorce.

Modifying Spousal Support

If the original divorce decree established a defined, temporary duration for spousal support, you can read the contents of the decree to see when you are no longer obligated to pay.

If the decree stated that spousal support was for “an undefined duration”, you and your family law attorney can immediately busy yourselves on ending the payments. Perhaps she has received an education sufficient to earn a living. Perhaps a temporary disability she suffered is no longer hindering her.

To get a modification motion started, look for “a material change in the circumstances of the parties, not reasonably in the contemplation of the parties when the award was made.” What are such circumstances? For example:

  • She remarries
  • She wins the lottery
  • She sells a patent or small business

Virginia’s courts proceed at a stately pace. Expect any motion to modify spousal support to take at least several weeks up to many months to receive a court order.

Can Retirement End Spousal Support?

Spousal support can be affected by the payor’s retirement under § 20-109, though that impact may already be factored into the amount of spousal support:

“F. In an action for the increase, decrease, or termination of spousal support based on the retirement of the payor spouse … the court shall … consider the following factors:

  1. Whether retirement was contemplated by the court and specifically considered by the court when the spousal support was awarded;
  2. Whether the retirement is mandatory or voluntary, and the terms and conditions related to such retirement;
  3. Whether the retirement would result in a change in the income of either the payor or the payee spouse; …”

Taking early retirement to duck out of spousal support, then, is unlikely to work. Taking early retirement because your company gives you that as an option to being fired is a factor the judge would consider.

How Quickly Can I Get Spousal Support Changed?

With any matter before the Virginia courts, do not expect swift justice. For example, decisions to approve modifications to spousal support must be backed up with investigated facts:

“… Any order granting or denying a request for the modification or termination of spousal support shall be accompanied by written findings and conclusions of the court identifying the factors set forth in subsection E of § 20-107.1 and subsection F of this section that support the court’s order.”

Gathering and investigating information for the written findings could take several weeks. Preparation of such written findings and conclusions could take several additional weeks.

Contact The Firm For Men’s Spousal Support Lawyers

In a nutshell, if you anticipate material changes in your finances that could mean a change in spousal support, get started immediately to get the motion started. Especially in the face of a battle against a pandemic, Virginia’s court system will not operate at the speed of private business.

Contact your family law attorney to discuss your need for a spousal support modification. Agree on a strategy, and then trust your lawyer to make it happen within the confines of Virginia’s judiciary.

Contact The Firm For Men by telephone at (757) 383-9184 or online. We can help with spousal support modifications on the fastest timeline possible. We focus on looking out for Virginia’s men in all aspects of family law, including prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, spousal support, separation, and divorce.