JACOB F. CHANEY
JULIA L. KARABAIC-CHANEY
THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CHESTERFIELD COUNTY Timothy J. Hauler,
Jessica C. Boutwell (CowanGates, on brief), for appellant.
H. Brown, III (Dimitrios E. Karles; Parker, Pollard, Wilton
& Peaden, PC, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges O'Brien, Russell and Senior Judge
Clements Argued at Richmond, Virginia
GRACE O'BRIEN JUDGE
L. Karabaic-Chaney ("wife") and Jacob F. Chaney
("husband") married June 16, 2012, and separated
May 9, 2017. Wife subsequently filed a complaint for divorce
and requested equitable distribution, spousal support, child
support, and attorney's fees. Husband's responsive
pleading did not include a counterclaim for divorce or allege
wife's adultery as an affirmative defense. Because
husband did not raise the issue of adultery in his answer,
wife filed a motion in limine asking the court to
prohibit husband from introducing any evidence of her alleged
adultery. The court granted the motion excluding all evidence
of wife's adultery "for any purpose at any
deposition, hearing[, ] or trial."
parties proceeded by de bene esse deposition on the
issues of equitable distribution and spousal support. Husband
and wife's depositions took place December 5, 2018, and
the court heard argument on all issues except child support
on December 21, 2018. It received additional testimony from the
parties on January 31, 2019. The court subsequently granted
wife a divorce based on a one-year separation pursuant to
Code § 20-91(A)(9)(a), determined the equitable
distribution of property, ordered husband to pay child
support, and awarded wife spousal support "in the amount
of $45, 000.00 payable over five years in monthly
installments of $750 per month" with "[t]he right
to receive future spousal support . . . reserved to [wife]
upon motion made before the expiration of the five[-]year
appeal, husband assigns error to the court's spousal
support ruling. He contends that the court should have
allowed him to introduce evidence of wife's adultery for
consideration under Code § 20-107.1(E). He also argues
that the evidence was insufficient to warrant spousal support
and that the court erred in determining wife's right to
request future modification of the award.
courts "review a trial court's decision to admit or
exclude evidence using an abuse of discretion standard and,
on appeal, will not disturb a trial court's decision to
[exclude] evidence absent a finding of abuse of that
discretion." Harman v. Honeywell Int'l,
Inc., 288 Va. 84, 92 (2014) (quoting John Crane,
Inc. v. Jones, 274 Va. 581, 590 (2007)). However,
"a trial court 'by definition abuses its discretion
when it makes an error of law.'" Shooltz v.
Shooltz, 27 Va.App. 264, 271 (1998) (quoting Koon v.
United States, 518 U.S. 81, 100 (1996)). This appeal
initially requires us to review the court's decision to
exclude evidence from its consideration of spousal support
under Code § 20-107.1(E). To conduct this review, we
also must determine whether the court properly interpreted
the language of Code § 20-107.1(E) specifying the
circumstances and factors courts must consider in awarding
spousal support. "[W]e review the trial court's
statutory interpretations and legal conclusions de
novo." Navas v. Navas, 43 Va.App. 484, 487
(2004) (quoting Sink v. Commonwealth, 28 Va.App.
655, 658 (1998)).
§ 20-107.1 authorizes a court to order spousal support
after considering numerous requisite factors. See
Weizenbaum v. Weizenbaum, 12 Va.App. 899, 903 (1991).
See also Ray v. Ray, 4 Va.App. 509, 513 (1987)
("A review of all the factors contained in Code §
20-107.1 is mandatory."). "When a court awards
spousal support based upon due consideration of the factors
enumerated in Code § 20-107.1, as shown by the evidence,
its determination 'will not be disturbed except for a
clear abuse of discretion.'" Dodge v.
Dodge, 2 Va.App. 238, 246 (1986) (quoting Thomasson
v. Thomasson, 225 Va. 394, 398 (1983)).
abuse of discretion . . . exists if the trial court fails to
consider the statutory factors required to be part of the
decisionmaking process." Congdon v. Congdon, 40
Va.App. 255, 262 (2003). "In determining spousal
support, the . . . court must consider all factors contained
in Code § 20-107.1; failure to do so constitutes
reversible error." Rowe v. Rowe, 24 Va.App.
123, 139 (1997). See also Keyser v. Keyser, 7
Va.App. 405, 414-15 (1988) (reversing denial of spousal
support where the court considered only the marriage's
short duration and wife's "good . . . financial
condition" rather than all factors under Code §
§ 20-107.1(E) provides that "[t]he court, in
determining whether to award support and maintenance for a
spouse, shall consider the circumstances and factors which
contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically
including adultery and any other ground for divorce."
The statute enumerates thirteen specific factors the court
must consider when awarding spousal support. Code §
20-107.1(E)(1)-(13). Code § 20-107.1(E)(13) reiterates
the direction that the court consider "other factors,
including . . . the circumstances and factors that
contributed to the dissolution [of the marriage],
specifically including any ground for divorce, as are
necessary to consider the equities between the parties."
wife asserts that the court correctly excluded evidence of
her adultery in her spousal support claim because husband did
not allege adultery as a ground for divorce or as an
affirmative defense. In support of this argument, wife relies
on Code § 20-107.1(B). When granting a divorce on
adultery grounds, a court cannot award support to the
adulterous spouse unless denying support "would
constitute a manifest injustice, based upon the respective