Virginia Spousal Support: When Keeping it Unreal Goes Wrong

In the unpublished case of Gregory v. Gregory, Record No. 1367-14-4 (Va. Ct. Appeals 2015), the appellate court reversed a trial court decision awarding spousal support to the wife in the case because the trial ignored its copious findings that wife’s testimony was not believable.  Given the lack of credible evidence, wife failed to meet her burden of proof in establishing her need for spousal support, thus she should not have been awarded any spousal support.

On first blush, this kind of holding is surprising because our appellate courts rarely reverse on the grounds of an abuse of discretion.  But, in this case, the wife might as well have worn a shirt at trial that said “liar” with the way she answered questions about her employment.  Here is a mere sampling of things that led the trial court to say that wife’s testimony lacked transparency, that her evidence was “shady,” that she fabricated documents, etc.:

– She couldn’t name who hired her.

– She couldn’t name her work supervisor.

– She couldn’t recall exactly where her employer is headquartered in Moscow.

– She referred her husband to a P.O. Box in Belize when he inquired about who he could contact at her employer.

– She didn’t produce any tax forms from her employer.

– She apparently didn’t introduce bank statements showing her purported income.

– She created a promissory note from her employer, and provided no other documentary evidence showing her receipt of the purported loan(s).

– And she hadn’t filed any tax returns since 2006.

All in all, the trial court just threw up its hands and came up with a support number based on the limited information available to it.  In the end, the appellate court said that it shouldn’t have bothered to make that effort.  If wife couldn’t produce credible evidence of her need, then that’s on her.