Spousal Support: How to modify.

Virginia law allows you to modify a spousal support order if there has been a “material change in circumstances.” Common examples of times when it would be appropriate to request a modification of spousal support include getting laid off, obtaining a new job, or suffering from a workplace injury that makes you unable to work.

So how often will a court modify a spousal support order, and what do you need to know before you file?

What is a material change in circumstances?

The first thing that you must prove before the court will grant you a modification of your spousal support is that there has been a material change in circumstances. This is a legal term of art that means that finances or living arrangements have changed such that it would be fair to modify the spousal support order.

With respect to changing finances, the most typical times a court will modify your spousal support order is if either party changes their employment situation. A change in employment can be caused by any number of things. However, the change cannot be due to an intentional decision by the employee to take reduced hours or reduced pay. If you intentionally reduce your pay, the court will assume you are still making the same amount of money.

With respect to a change in living arrangements, most court orders only require you to provide spousal support so long as the other party is not living “in a relationship analogous to marriage.” Meaning, if the other party moves in with a new significant other who is taking on the bills or the other party gets remarried, that may also be grounds to amend the spousal support.

How to prepare before filing for a modification of spousal support.

The court will require you to produce a number of documents when you ask for a modification of spousal support. You must prove the material change in circumstances that are the basis for your request. Common examples of documents you need to obtain include three (3) months worth of pay stubs, tax returns, or letters from your doctor showing a disability. Either way, you need documentation proving your case.

Furthermore, it may be a good idea to attempt to negotiate with the other party. After time has passed and temporatures have cooled, the other side may be willing to revisit spousal support. Coming to an agreement may save significant costs.

Why you need a lawyer.

Spousal support modification is complicated in Virginia. At the very least, you need to know how to obtain the documentation you need to prove your case. Additionally, you may need to prove the income or living arrangements of the other party. A lawyer can assist by preparing your case for presentation to the court or negotiating with the other party. If you are considering a change in spousal support, seek out a lawyer.