Choose Your Language Carefully in Northern Virginia Divorce Settlements

Negotiations surrounding spousal support are present in many Northern Virginia divorce proceedings. Spousal support is one of the several things that Virginia courts have jurisdiction over during your divorce proceeding. Other items are equitable distribution (property division and debt allocation), child custody and visitation, and child support. Courts in Northern Virginia divorce proceedings sometimes also issue injunctions with regard to exclusive use and possession of the marital residence, or other assets.

Many cases handled by DiPietro, PLLC never see the inside of a courtroom. Some divorcing couples in Northern Virginia are capable of getting along well enough to negotiate through their attorneys, or participate in mediation. Other divorcing couples are forced into settlement when faced with the realities of the cost of litigation, or after performing a cost-benefit analysis; i.e. balancing the cost of obtaining a greater financial benefit in a divorce with the cost necessary to litigate the issue. Settlement is an excellent way to resolve the issues in your Northern Virginia divorce. It can be more cost-effective, and allow for custom solutions. Sometimes, a court will only order certain relief if the parties agree to it, but will not order it if one party asks over the objection of the other; for example, obtaining life insurance policies.

Divorce settlements in Northern Virginia usually result in the formation of a contract between the divorcing spouses called a “Property Settlement Agreement” or something similar. Divorcing couples can make permanent agreements with regard to money and property issues, among others, but can never make truly final agreements with regard to custody, visitation and child support, which are always up for review in the event of a change in circumstances, and other requirements. Finality can be a great thing for people looking to move on with their lives after a divorce. However, using the wrong language in your Property Settlement Agreement can cause major problem for you down the road.

Divorced individuals can have ongoing spousal support obligations for years, or even for the rest of their life. The amount paid to a former spouse in a Northern Virginia divorce is usually based on the current financial circumstances of the spouse who pays. Of course people look as far ahead into the future as possible. The problem is that, in Virginia divorce and spousal support proceedings, the language a divorcing person uses when forming the contract with their spouse, can make the amount impossible to modify, even in the event of job loss, or financial disaster. It is very important to receive advice from a knowledgeable divorce lawyer during the process.

For example, in a decision recently rendered in Fairfax County, a former husband was not permitted to modify the amount of spousal support he paid his wife, over ten years after they signed their Property Settlement Agreement. The former husband had lost his job, was making $100,000 less than he was before, and was still required to make his $1,000 monthly payment to his former wife.

The penalties for non-payment of support can go as far as incarceration. Interest accumulates on unpaid amounts of spousal support too. When negotiating your divorce settlement in Northern Virginia, it is very important to be properly advised by an experienced family law attorney.

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