Adultery & Spousal Support in Virginia

In Virginia, a spouse who committed adultery during the marriage is generally barred from receiving spousal support when a complaint for divorce on the basis of adultery is filed. Even if the divorce is not premised on one party’s adultery, a Court is still able to consider the adultery of either party. When Virginia Circuit Courts determine an award of spousal support, they are directed to consider the factors stated in Virginia Code § 20-107.1(E). Among those factors is “the circumstances and factors that contributed to the dissolution, specifically including any ground for divorce.” Va. Code § 20.-107.1(E)(13).

The Virginia Court of Appeals recently considered a case in which the Husband sought to introduce evidence of the Wife’s adultery for the Court’s consideration regarding spousal support. At trial, the judge prohibited the Husband from introducing any evidence of Wife’s adultery because he did not raise the issue in his initial pleadings. The Court of Appeals ultimately disagreed with the trial court, finding that § 20-107.1(E) “commands a court to consider evidence of adultery when awarding spousal support, even if the proponent of the evidence did not plead adultery as a ground for divorce or as an affirmative defense.”

This ruling may encourage parties to “bring evidence on all sorts of behavior that could have contributed to the dissolution of marriage,” including “everything from heavy drinking and verbal abuse to refusal to help with chores or withholding sex,” according to a family law attorney consulted regarding this case. While such evidence may not rise to the level required to constitute a grounds for divorce—such as cruelty or adultery—it is now nonetheless relevant to the issue of spousal support. This may cause parties to bring up the wrong-doings of their spouses, more than they have in the past, which leads to messier divorces and may make it more challenging for people going through a divorce to move on with their lives.

Because each case involves unique circumstances, it is best to consult with an experienced family law attorney to explore your options. If you are facing a separation or divorce and need assistance from someone with intimate knowledge of family law, please do not hesitate to contact our firm at 804-423-1382 or to schedule a one-on-one consultation with one of our experienced Virginia attorneys.