If the divorce papers I signed as the husband say that I will pay alimony until no later than December 31,2019 or the wife finished school as in degree, and she stops going to school, then does that breach the agreement? How is that handled?
First, this question got categorized as an education law question, and it isn't; so I am updating the practice area designation.
As to your question, it depends on the precise wording of the document and any explicit assumptions about your wife's school attendance. Generally, these either or statements cut against you. If the decree only says that alimony will continue until either she finishes school with a degree, or Dec. 31, 2019...her stopping attending school means she won't finish with a degree. That leaves only one alternative, you pay until Dec. 31, 2019. About the only argument you could make (and it is a weak one at that), is if her stopping school is in bad faith. Beyond that, I doubt you have much to go on.
But, have the decree and situation reviewed by an attorney and explore your options.
Virginia Code Section 20-109.1 allows a court to affirm, ratify and incorporate a valid agreement between the spouses into a divorce decree. Spouses may enter into binding, enforceable agreements with respect to their rights and the consequences of the marriage. Unlike a contract regarding child custody, child visitation, and child support, which may be disregarded or modified by the court in the best interest of the child[ren}, the spouses can bind each other and a court by contract.
When a court awards spousal support in the absence of a contract, the award remains modifiable by the court upon a material change in financial circumstances, and the award may be terminated only upon certain events specified in the Code of Virginia, When the spouses contract for a particular amount of support, they can impose their own conditions and termination events. Nevertheless, it may be advisable for an ex-spouse to move the court for a modification of a decree incorporating a contractual obligation to pay support in accordance with its terms.
Rather than simply not paying support, which may constitute contempt of court and the breach of a contract, a spouse should first consult with an attorney and consider filing a motion to modify.
The foregoing is intended to be general legal information concerning Virginia law based on the scenario as written and not legal advice to anyone in particular. The information provided should not be relied on as legal advice or as an appropriate basis for any legal action, and it's provision does not establish an attorney-client relationship with the reader. Information shared or provided on a public forum is obviously not confidential or private. Every situation is unique and you should always immediately consult with a Virginia attorney to discuss all your options in light of your particular circumstances before acting.
I would need to see the Agreement before answering. The specific language used and the context it is used in can make the difference. If it is ambiguous, you may be able to put on evidence as to your intent at the time. However, if the document is clear and unambiguous on its face, you may be stuck. You need to have a good family law attorney take a look at the agreement. I am available if you would like to make an appointment.
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