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Life has changed — can spousal support in Virginia change too?

Paying spousal support can be a sticking point between a couple, even after their divorce is finalized. Not only does it tie a person to an ex-spouse well after their marriage has ended, but life events may occur that makes one party feel the spousal support order needs to be modified. However, not all spousal support requests will be honored.

Under Virginia law, either the paying party or the receiving party may choose to ask the court to modify a spousal support order. It is important to note that the judge has the discretion to increase the award, decrease the award or even terminate the award, regardless of which party asked for it to be changed. The court must find that a material change in circumstance has occurred that could not have reasonably been contemplated when the order was issued, or that it was anticipated that a certain significant event would take place, but that event never actually takes place through no fault of either party. The court may consider several factors when making its decision.

For example, the court will consider each party’s financial obligations, needs and financial resources. Each party’s earning capacity and employment prospects will be considered. How long the couple was married and the standard of living they enjoyed while married will also be accounted for. Each party’s age and health will be considered. Each parent’s contributions to the family — both financial and non-financial — are another factor. An additional factor is each party’s property interests. This list is not all-exhaustive; there are other factors as well.

Because modifying a spousal support order will have a significant impact on both the paying party and the receiving party, it is something that cannot be taken lightly. Just because a person asks for an increase or decrease in support paid doesn’t mean it will automatically happen. You may think you have good reasons for wanting a spousal support modification, but there are certain legal standards that must be met for a court to approve a modification request. Therefore, those seeking a spousal support modification will want to make sure they understand all their options before proceeding.

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