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My Spouse Was Laid Off and Given a Severance. How Will This Affect Our Pending Divorce?

A party losing their employment, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, can have earth-shattering ramifications for a divorce at any stage, whether during the divorce process or after a divorce decree has already been entered. This is particularly true where spousal support or child support is being paid by one party to the other. Typically, a loss of employment income can be a trigger for a reduction of those support amounts, as the payor will claim they do not have sufficient income to pay support at the same level. Where the loss of employment is involuntary, such a request may well be granted. However, the payor receiving a severance from their employer could change that outcome in several ways.

Beware the Late-Night Mediation!

The process of formal Mediation has evolved into a very popular, and hugely successful, alternative to divorce litigation. No doubt, the rise in using Mediation to resolve divorce and custody issues, can be attributed, in great measure, to economic considerations. The act of settling a divorce case, or a custody dispute, through Mediation, results in a savings to each party of tens of thousands of dollars that each would incur in litigating those same issues through the court system.

Court Can Order Ex-Spouse to Maintain Life Insurance Policy to Secure Support Payments


Individuals receiving spousal support often ask themselves, "what happens to my support payments if my ex-spouse dies?" Beginning July 1, 2017, Virginia law now allows the Court to order the paying ex-spouse to maintain a life insurance policy for the benefit of the party receiving support in order to secure those spousal support payments in the event of death.

Can I Continue to Receive My Spousal/Child Support Payments If My Spouse Dies?

When a party paying child support or spousal support dies, those payments end with the payor's death. Thus, if you are receiving support, it is quite legitimate to consider what might happen if the payor dies before the term of support would otherwise naturally end. This may be especially important to consider where your children have special financial needs, or if you agreed to receive a greater amount of spousal or child support in lieu of other money or property. Alternatively, if you are paying child support and the other parent passes away, such that you become your child(ren) primary custodian, your living expenses could increase dramatically. Fortunately, Virginia law provides a "Plan B" to protect parties in those catastrophic circumstances.

Imputing Income to the Unemployed Spouse

When one spouse is either voluntarily unemployed, or is under-employed, Virginia law does allow the other spouse to take the position that income should properly be imputed to such spouse when addressing a determination of spouse and/or child support. Stated differently, Virginia law will generally not allow a spouse to refrain from working at a paying job, or working at something less than his/her earning capacity; and thereby cause the other spouse to pay an increased amount of support.

Grounds for Divorce

In Virginia, there are two broad categories of contested divorces: fault-based divorce and no-fault divorce. Virginia recognizes several grounds on which one can obtain a divorce based on specific bad behavior by the other spouse. A divorce based on one of these fault grounds may confer certain legal and procedural benefits upon the spouse seeking the divorce. At the beginning of the divorce process, a fault ground will permit you to file immediately, rather than having to wait a year to file for a no-fault divorce. In the longer term, proving a divorce based on a fault ground can impact the division of property and can bar the guilty spouse from collecting spousal support.

I Just Lost My Job. Do I Have to Keep Paying Court-Ordered Support?

We often receive questions from individuals who have recently lost their jobs asking whether they still have to pay their court ordered child and/or spousal support. The answer is a resounding YES!

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Duff Kronfeld & Marquardt P.C.
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Fairfax, VA 22030

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