Overview

            In Owen v. Owen, Husband, an actual client of Smith | Strong, PLC, was previously ordered to pay spousal support. That prior order stated that Husband’s spousal support obligation could be lowered if he had reduced income by more than twenty-five percent through no fault of his own. 

            Years later, Husband lost his job through no fault of his own when the bank at which he was president was sold. While he attempted to look for a similar job, he was unsuccessful in finding one. Husband then started a new career as a real estate agent. However, his new income was still less than fifty percent of his old income. 

            Additionally, since the entry of the original spousal support order, Wife had obtained new employment, acquired substantial savings and real estate holdings, and had remarried and was enjoying a greater standard of living than she had while she was married to Husband. 

            As a result of Husband’s change in income, he petitioned the court to reduce his monthly spousal support obligation. Wife contended that he was voluntarily underemployed and therefore a reduction was unwarranted. Further, she also argued that her income and assets should not have been considered when recalculating spousal support. 

Modification of Spousal Support

            Pursuant to the Code of Virginia § 20-109(G), a court may modify a spousal support award when there has been a material change in circumstances. When there has been a material change in circumstances, the court will look at the factors in the Code of Virginia §§ 20-107.1(E) and 20-109(F), which includes the earning capacity, present employment opportunities, and the assets or property interests of the parties. Additionally, pursuant to the parties’ Agreement, Husband could seek to modify his spousal support obligation if his income decreased by more than twenty-five percent through no fault of his own.

Applying these factors and the Agreement to Owen v. Owen, the trial court found that:

  • Husband’s reduction in income was not a result of his own fault; 
  • Husband was not under-employed; 
  • Wife’s new income, assets, and standard of living were significant;
  • Wife’s financial circumstances were to be considered when calculating the reduced support.

Conclusion

            Modifying spousal support payments requires an experienced legal team. It is important to make sure that you have an attorney who is well versed in the factors that determine modification and can help advocate best for you. The attorneys at Smith | Strong, PLC have successfully represented client in spousal support cases, and we represented the Husband in this actual case at trial. We look forward skillfully guiding you with your spousal support modification action. 

Editorial Assistance by: Kala Swenson

H. Van Smith
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