Reece v. Reece – Case Brief Summary (Virginia)

In Reece v. Reece, 22 Va. App. 368, 470 S.E. 2d 148 (Ct. App. Va. 1996), a husband, who lost his $154,000 a year position with R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and ultimately went to work as a $1,752 a month real estate agent, sought to modify his spousal support obligations.

The wife argued that the husband was not entitled to a reduction because he had not found comparable employment in the Richmond area and he had declined an offer from his former employer to relocate, at the same compensation level, to Florida.

The court declined to adopt a per se rule:

[W]hich would hold that the supporting spouse always becomes voluntarily underemployed or unemployed when he or she refuses to accept an offer of comparable employment in another geographic location. Id at 152.

In exercising its discretion on whether "failure to relocate constitutes voluntary unemployment sufficient to justify imputing income," the Reece court concluded that a trial court should consider a number of factors, including but not limited to:

(1) the supporting spouse's business ties to the community;

(2) the supporting spouse's familial ties to the community;

(3) whether the supporting spouse's relocation would have an undue deleterious effect upon his or her relationship with his or her children or other family members;

(4) the length of time in which the supporting spouse has resided in the community;

(5) monetary considerations which would impose an undue hardship upon the supporting spouse if he or she were forced to relocate;

(6) the "quality of life" in the respective communities;

(7) the geographic distance between the respective communities; and

(8) the severity of the burden which a failure to relocate would have on the obligee spouse. (Id. at 152-53.)