Is there a presumption of duration for an award of spousal support made pursuant to a spousal support reservation?

There is no provision in the Code of Virginia stating a presumption for the duration of an award of spousal support. In the unpublished 2022 Virginia Court of Appeals case of Griffin v. Griffin, the court considered the issue of duration for a spousal support reservation. In that case, the parties married in 2010 and signed a Property Settlement Agreement (“PSA”) in 2015. The parties’ PSA contained a provision for a reservation for spousal support. Later, in 2020, the wife petitioned the court for support and was awarded spousal support in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. The husband appealed, and the Circuit Court subsequently awarded the wife spousal support until December of 2026. The husband appealed to the Court of Appeals of Virginia.

The issue on appeal was whether the court exceeded its statutory authority by awarding the Wife spousal support in excess of one-half of the duration of the marriage.

The Court of Appeals discussed the language in Virginia Code § 20-107.1(D), which provides that “the court may reserve the right of a party to receive support in the future. In any case in which the right to support is so reserved, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the reservation will continue for a period equal to 50 percent of the length of time between the date of the marriage and the date of separation.” The husband argued that the Code provided for a rebuttable presumption that spousal support payments may not be awarded for longer than half the length of the marriage. The Court of Appeals held that the plain language of the Code is that the the rebuttable presumption applies to the duration of the reservation, not the award of spousal support itself. Therefore, when a trial court makes an award of spousal support, the duration of the spousal support award is squarely within its discretion. The Court of Appeals held that nothing in Virginia Code § 20-107.1(D) limits the length of time for which a spouse may receive spousal support.

Please contact the lawyers at Hicks Crandall Juhl, PC with any questions on spousal support.