Spousal support, often referred to in Virginia as alimony, is a complex subject. Either spouse may request support from the other starting at the time of separation, even before the divorce is finalized. Courts in Virginia will consider various factors before deciding whether to award spousal support and how much should be provided.
That means every divorce case is unique when it comes to questions of spousal support. While each of our experienced family law attorneys approaches alimony questions on an individual basis, some general rules apply to spousal support in Virginia.
Spousal Support May Be Temporary or Permanent
When a judge orders one spouse to make support payments to the other while the divorce proceedings are still in progress, this form of alimony is temporary, designed to help that spouse make ends meet until the divorce becomes final.
The court can also order a temporary form of spousal support, often referred to as rehabilitative support. This is common when one spouse has left the workforce to care for the home or children while the other spouse is focused on a career. Rehabilitative spousal support is designed to give the recipient time to acquire training that will enable them to become financially independent.
In situations where one spouse may not be able to work due to age, disability, or other factors, the judge may award spousal support to continue indefinitely, which essentially makes this form of alimony permanent.
What Factors Does the Court Consider Before Awarding Spousal Support?
The dynamics are different in every marriage. Courts will look closely at the details before deciding whether to award alimony and how much should be paid for how long. Factors a judge may consider include the:
- Duration of the marriage
- Age and physical and mental condition of each spouse
- Standard of living
- Financial resources of each spouse
- Needs and obligations of each spouse
- Earning capacity of each spouse, including education and skills
- Existence of any marital misconduct
In addition, the court may consider whether one spouse left a career to support the family and whether that action affected that spouse’s earning potential. The judge will also consider whether the parties executed a pre-or postnuptial agreement addressing spousal support issues.
Can a Couple Make Their Own Decisions About Spousal Support?
There are many ways a family law attorney in Virginia can help a couple control their own destiny regarding spousal support. First, the parties could create a prenuptial agreement that waives or defines alimony obligations. So long as the agreement meets legal requirements, it should be enforceable. These issues may also be addressed in a postnuptial agreement after a couple is already married.
Second, divorcing couples may create an agreement outside of court that specifies amounts and durations of payments for spousal support. The terms would be incorporated into the couple’s separation agreement, and usually, the court will approve the settlement unless the arrangement violates legal standards. When the parties create their own plan for spousal support, they can set up the payment as one lump sum instead of the traditional monthly payments or a large sum followed by smaller monthly payments. If the parties cannot reach an agreement on their own, the court will set the terms, and the parties will not have as much flexibility.
Finally, each spouse may later ask the court to change the amount of alimony payments or terminate support if either one has experienced a substantial change in circumstances. For instance, support could be reduced if the paying spouse is laid off from work, or alimony could be terminated if the recipient is in a long-term relationship similar to marriage.
Help with Spousal Support in Virginia
It is a good idea to talk to an experienced family law attorney if you plan to seek spousal support or want to know how to reduce your liability for unreasonable alimony payments. At DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, our seasoned legal team understands the nuances of divorce laws pertaining to support. We are prepared to help you devise the right solution for your unique situation. Contact us now for a confidential consultation.