Women and Justice: Court: Court of Appeals of Virginia: Chesapeake

Domestic Case Law

deCamp v. deCamp Court of Appeals of Virginia: Chesapeake (2014)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Property and inheritance rights

The appellant and the appellee were married for 21 years and had three children.  After the birth of their first child, by mutual agreement of the parties, the appellee stopped working and became a homemaker and the children’s primary caregiver. In adjudicating couple’s separation agreement, the trial court ordered the appellant to pay the appellee spousal support in addition to child support pursuant to statutory guidelines.  On appeal, the appellant raised several arguments including that the trial court failed to exclude child-related expenses that he already had to pay for through child support awarded to appellee and that the court erred in refusing to impute income to appellee even though she was voluntarily unemployed.  With respect to  the first argument, the court affirmed the trial court’s conclusion, explaining that expenses that are indivisible by nature or trivial in amount need not be segregated. Although “some of wife’s claimed expenses did indeed include expenses attributable to the children, such as Internet service fees, utilities, and food,” those expenses were properly included in the spousal support award because they were “indivisible by their very nature.”   With respect to the trial court’s refusal to impute income to the appellee, the court explained that “the law does not require wife return to work immediately upon divorce to avoid judicial imputation of income merely because she has provable earning capacity at the time of the divorce.”  Rather, any decision to impute income must be done “within a review of all the statutory factors concerning spousal support.”  Under the circumstances, the court found the trial court’s refusal to impute income to the appellee to be supported by the facts, given that the appellant  had been the sole monetary contributor for the entire duration of their marriage, the appellee had left her nursing career in order to be a full-time homemaker and caregiver for their children, and the family moved eight times over the course of the marriage in order to enable the appellant  to pursue and advance his military career. Thus, the refusal to impute any income to her was not an error.