The Reservation of the Right to Spousal Support in Divorce: Why Is It Important?

What Is Spousal Support?

Spousal support is one of the most important financial issues that must be resolved during the divorce process. The Virginia State Bar defines spousal support as “an amount of monetary support paid by one spouse to the more financially dependent spouse”. The Court determines whether support should be awarded, as well as the amount or duration of any support based on a number of factors, including the needs of the receiving spouse, the ability of the paying spouse, and the “station of life to which [the parties were] accustomed during the marriage”(Via v. Via, 14 Va. App. 868 (1992); Va. Code Ann. § 20-107.1). Once the Court renders its decision regarding support, that decision is final, and not subject to change, unless there is a timely reservation of rights on the issue of support. Why is this important or necessary?

Why Is Reservation of Rights Important?

The finality of a divorce decree can place a party in a difficult position if, at the time of the decree, he or she decides not to pursue a spousal support award. If no request is made for a reservation of rights on the issue of spousal support, the Court is prohibited from revisiting the issue after the appeal period ends (Dixon v. Pugh, 244 Va. 539 (1992)). If reservation of rights is properly requested, the Court may revisit – and modify – any spousal support award for a time period of up to half the duration of the marriage.

The Consequences of Failing to Request Reservation of Rights

The consequences of failing to reserve rights with respect to spousal support demonstrates the importance of hiring an experienced family law attorney. The Court on its own is not obligated to include a reservation of rights provision in the final order with respect to spousal support. If, however, the attorney makes the request to include such a provision in the order, and the provision is somehow omitted, the reservation stands regardless of the Court’s error (Bacon v. Bacon, 3 Va. App. 484, 351 S.E.2d 37 (1986)).

On the other hand, if the attorney forgets to make this request, or a party is unrepresented and simply does not know to make the request, then the spousal support award – or lack thereof – cannot be changed (Dixon, 244 Va. App. at 541). A party that is or became eligible for spousal support after the decree can be seriously prejudiced by such a failure.

Rely on Experienced Legal Representation

Are you facing divorce and believe you might be eligible or liable for spousal support? The experienced divorce attorneys at Keithley Law, PLLC understand the critical steps that must be taken to protect your rights.

Contact Keithley Law, PLLC at (703) 454-5147 to schedule an initial consultation today.

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