Hyat v. Hina, 20 Vap UNP 1882194 (2020)
The parties were married in May 2016 and separated in March 2017, approximately ten days after their son was born. Prior to the parties’ marriage, the wife came to the United States from India on a student visa.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in 2009, she began working on an H-1B visa, which was valid as long as she was sponsored by her employer. The wife’s employment ended in 2017 and her H-1B visa terminated.
The Husband had filed an I-130 visa for the wife, but withdrew it in 2017 when the parties separated. The husband subsequently obtained an order enjoining the wife from removing the child from the United States. Thereafter, the trial court ordered the husband to pay the wife $2,100 per month for an undefined period of time since the wife was in a “Catch 22,” where she could not work and could not return with the child to her home country where she could work. The husband appealed.
Whether the trial court erred in awarding the wife an undefined duration of spousal support on a 10-month marriage.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, stating “We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding wife spousal support for undefined duration, as the court's ruling was neither plainly wrong nor lacking in supporting evidence. See Wright, 61 Va. App. at 446. Accordingly, we find no basis to reverse the trial court, and we decline to award attorney's fees and costs to either party.”
Hyat v. Hina, No. 1882-19-4, 2020 WL 3421171, at *3 (Va. Ct. App. June 23, 2020)
Whether and how much spousal support will be awarded is a matter of discretion for the trial court and will not be disturbed except for a clear abuse of discretion. A court’s decision constitutes reversible error only if its decision is plainly wrong or without evidence to support it.
The trial court considered the factors in Virginia Code § 20-107.1, and found that the wife had the education and skill necessary to make a nice living, but she had no lawful ability to earn an income at that time due to her immigration status.
The trial court also stated that if the wife was not granted spousal support that she would be faced with the choice of living in the United States without the ability to lawfully support herself or leaving the United States with her child.
Thus, the trial court’s ruling is supported by the evidence. The fact that the support is undefined for a marriage of short duration is not error since the amount and duration of support is modifiable upon a material change in circumstances, including the wife finding employment.
Special Thanks to Law Clerk William Taylor Gleason for his assistance with this article.