Virginia Takes Modifying Spousal Support Seriously: LaBrie v. LaBrie

DiPietro Law Group, PLLC

It is not easy to modify an order requiring you to pay spousal support or alimony. Typically, in order to modify or terminate a spousal support order, you and your ex-spouse must either agree to modification/termination, your ex-spouse must have gotten re-married or lived with another as if they were married for a year or more, or you must be able to demonstrate that a “material change” in circumstances has occurred and modification/termination is required.

Attempting to prove a material change in circumstances can be an uphill battle. Courts take the inquiry very seriously and do not put up with shell games or false representations of the evidence. The serious nature of this inquiry is best illustrated in the case of LaBrie v. LaBrie.

In LaBrie, a former husband sought to reduce or terminate his spousal support obligation. According to the court’s original order, the ex-husband was required to pay his ex-wife $4,350 per month in alimony. The former husband argued that a material change in circumstances required a hefty reduction in the amount of monthly payments or termination of the payments altogether.

At first, it appeared the ex-husband had a significant argument for modifying the alimony obligation – he claimed he had become disabled and lost his job. However, due to the skilled work of the ex-wife’s attorney, including her introduction of a videotape of the ex-husband physically fit and in relatively good shape, the trial court had no trouble denying the ex-husband’s petition for modification, and the trial court’s decision was affirmed on appeal. In fact, guided by compelling argument by the ex-wife’s attorney, the appellate court methodically shut down each of the ex-husband’s arguments in support of his petition.

An example of the trial court exchange follows below:

Former Husband:
“I was laid-off from my job.”
Court:
“You’ve only looked for two jobs in the past two plus years.”

Former Husband:
“I am disabled.”
Court:
“We have video evidence showing otherwise.”

Former Husband:
“My doctor says I am disabled.”
Court:
“We have video evidence showing otherwise.”

Former Husband:
“The Social Security Administration says I am disabled.”
Court:
“We don’t care. Also, we have video evidence showing otherwise.”

Former Husband:
“It hurts for me to work.”
Court:
“It always hurts for you to work.”

Former Husband:
“I don’t have the money to pay.”
Court:
“You have other assets you can use to pay your spousal support obligation.”

It’s clear from the above exchange not only that courts take the “material change” in test seriously, but that judges do not view favorably attempts to lie or distort facts when it comes to modifying spousal support.

The LaBrie case also demonstrates the importance of hiring a skilled family law attorney in your spousal or child support case. Had it not been for the wife’s evidence and litigation tactics of her lawyer, the ex-husband’s false claims may have never come to light and he may have received a modification or termination of his alimony obligation.

If you have a spousal support modification or termination issue in Virginia, or any other family law matter, you should speak with an experienced family lawyer as soon as possible. The family lawyers of DiPietro Law Group are experienced with spousal support issues in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Contact us today at (888) 530-4374.

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