What Is The Criteria The Court Requires In Order To Grant A Modification Of A Custody, Spousal Support, Or Alimony Order In Virginia?
In order to modify custody, spousal support, or alimony, you usually need a material change in circumstances that has occurred since the date of entry of the last court order establishing the arrangement or obligation. Not all material changes will be accepted in modifying an order. The change cannot be something that the parties were reasonably contemplating when the order was established. For example, if the parties know one of the parties plans to retire six months after the divorce; neither party can ask for a change to spousal support after the retirement because it was an expected event unless this is specifically outlined in the court order. For spousal support, the change also has to be something that occurs through no fault of the party causing the change, meaning a party paying support cannot quit their job and then expect to pay less money, and they also cannot get fired for cause and then benefit from the lower-income by asking to pay less support.
Sometimes, spousal support is not modifiable at all. If the agreement was determined by the parties (rather than through a trial with a judge), was entered after July 1st of 2018, and states specifically that it is not modifiable, then there is nothing that you can do to modify it. Similarly, if the agreement was entered before July 1st, 2018, and it does not specifically state that it is modifiable, then again, there’s nothing you can do.
Spousal support can, however, terminate if there’s clear and convincing evidence that the person receiving the support is living in a relationship for more than one year, if the person receiving the support remarries, or if either of the parties dies.
Are There Any Risks to the Petitioner in Requesting a Modification to a Family Court Order?
There could be risks, depending on the situation. Your request could be denied if you can’t prove that there has been a relevant material change in circumstances, or the verdict could go in the opposite direction than what you were asking for. A modification generally involves a complete redo unless both parties agree. If you are trying to modify your order through the court, it is best to be certain that the facts are on your side and that you are able to prove a material change in circumstances. Otherwise, you risk wasting time and money and having the court dismiss the matter, or in the worst-case scenario, you risk losing your case.
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