What Can I Do to Modify my Obligation to Pay Spousal Support in Northern Virginia?
In Northern Virginia, modification of spousal support payments are usually done in the circuit court where the divorce was granted. For example, if you obtained a divorce in Fairfax County, Virginia, and a few years later you need to file for a modification of spousal support, you would likely file a petition in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County. Whether or not a spousal support obligation in Northern Virginia is modifiable, depends on the wording of your property settlement agreement (if you did not engage in divorce litigation), or the final order granting your divorce. Small variations in language have large consequences, therefore advice from an experienced family law lawyer in Northern Virginia is very important when navigating these types of situations.
Material Change in Circumstances in Northern Virginia Spousal Support Modification Cases
If your income has gone down or stopped, you may petition the court to decrease your spousal support, unless you and your spouse have agreed to non-modifiable support at the time of your divorce. Before you consider filing for a modification of spousal support, make sure your agreement does not prohibit or limit you from doing so. Likewise, in some cases, the former spouse in Northern Virginia receiving support payments can petition for increases in the amount paid.
What you cannot do is stop paying your spousal support payments or pay less on your own, and it is typically not acceptable to reduce your court-ordered spousal support payment because you paid other expenses for your former spouse.
What Does a Court Consider?
Generally speaking, there must be a material change in circumstances since the initial award of support. Before modifying an existing spousal support award, a court considers many factors. Courts have considered an involuntary loss of a job, participating in a union strike, and change in work hours all a material change in circumstances which warrant a decrease in spousal support payments, but that does not necessarily mean a court will do so in your case, because every set of facts is different, or the same set of facts could be interpreted differently by another judge.
When Should I File?
If you have a material change in circumstances since your spousal support award, you can file a petition with the court at any time. However, you should consider the practicality in doing so. It could take a court in Northern Virginia months to make a decision on your petition, by which time your income may change again. If your change in income is temporary, it may not be practical to ask for a modification right now. However, if you expect the decrease in your income to continue indefinitely, it may be in your interest to petition for a modification immediately. Contact a Northern Virginia family law attorney to see if your situation is appropriate for a modification and when it is best to file a petition.
Modification of spousal support payments varies highly based on your individual circumstances. You should consult an experienced family law attorney is before you decide that seeking a decrease in spousal support payments is immediately necessary.