Modification of Spousal Support & Forseeability

In Virginia, a court of equity has an absolute power to grant alimony or spousal support either in a suit for divorce or for a suit for alimony alone.  Often, one party may find that the calculation of the initial award of spousal support does not consider subsequent changes in circumstances — ie. certain expenses and/or additional income.

Virginia Code § 20-109(B) “provides that a trial court may revisit spousal support if there is a ‘material change in circumstances … not reasonably in the contemplation of the parties when the award was made.’” It does not note that that Section is about modifications of defined-duration awards, and that the statute on modifying alimony generally, § 20-109(A), says instead that a court may modify it “as the circumstances may make proper.” In Dailey v. Dailey, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that the parties’ signed property settlement agreement was written such that Husband’s retirement was not “foreseeable”.  This is noteworthy because as the Court notes previiously –  when “a particular event or circumstance is reasonably foreseeable, trial courts are expected to build that event into the support award,” and “it will not constitute a material change in circumstances.”

If you are contemplating a divorce and wish to petition for spousal support, or have questions about your existing property settlement agreement, please call our domestic relations lawyers at Winslow & McCurry, PLLC at (804) 423-1382.