If you are thinking about getting a divorce in Virginia, the financial aspect of it may weigh heavily on your mind. No matter your income level, your financial situation can take a hit when you divorce. Spouses who didn't work or worked less while married are in a harder position because they are financially dependent on the other spouse. Rather than allow the spouse to succumb to a lower standard of living or need public benefits, spousal support may be ordered in your case.

While spousal support is not ordered in every case, it is ordered in  specific situations. If you have questions about spousal support, whether you are the one who needs support or the one who may be ordered to provide it, contact Van Hooser & Aguirre, P.C. at 703-659-4402 to schedule a Consultation. Our attorneys will provide honest answers and advocate for your rights.

Understanding Alimony in Virginia

Spousal support, spousal maintenance, and alimony are all terms used to describe a situation where one spouse pays another spouse a court-ordered payment, either periodically or lump sum during and/or after a divorce. In Virginia, these payments are normally referred to as Spousal Support.

Spouses can agree on Spousal Support, both the amount and the duration. If you fail to agree, the spouse seeking support must request support from the Court and establish their need and the payor spouse's ability to pay the requested level of support.

Alimony can be temporary or permanent, the former of which is the norm. It can also be a lump-sum versus periodic monthly payments.  Most cases we see are for a defied duration and paid monthly.  Further Spousal Support can be modifiable upon a showing of material change in circumstances or nonmodifiable as to amount or duration.

Factors Determining the Amount of Spousal Support

The court must first look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the dissolution of the marriage and ensure that the requesting spouse is entitled to receive support.  Adultery by the spouse requesting support, will normally but not always, bar that spouse from receiving support. After determining eligibility, the court must then determine the type, amount, and duration of support by considering the factors in the Virginia Code including: 

  • The needs and financial resources for each spouse
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • The contributions each spouse made to the marriage, including both monetary contributions and nonmonetary contributions
  • The distribution of assets and debts in the divorce
  • The decisions the parties made during their marriage regarding employment, economics, career trajectory, and parenting arrangements and how these impact the spouse's employment opportunities 
  • The support one spouse has given another in their attainment of career success
  • Tax consequences 
  • Factors leading to the dissolution of the marriage 

As mentioned above, you and your spouse can determine the amount by an agreement without interference of the court, keeping in mind it must be fair.

Termination of Spousal Support in Virginia

An end date can also be determined by agreement between the spouses, but if not, the court will determine it. Other times or in lieu of an end date, spousal support terminates statutorily if one of the following occurs:

  1. The supported spouse remarries;
  2. The supported spouse cohabitates with another in a relationship analogous to marriage for 12 months 
  3. Either spouse dies.

A significant event may occur, too, which prompts an end to Spousal Support. In that case, it's determined on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of the reason to terminate Spousal Support, evidence may need to be provided to support the reason for termination.

Defenses to Challenge Spousal Support

Alimony can be a highly contested aspect of any divorce. The spouse who may be ordered to pay alimony normally spends a significant amount of time and resources on the issue. Reasons  courts may deny spousal support claim include but are not limited to:

  • Marital misconduct
  • Adultery
  • Bigamy
  • Cruelty, including domestic violence
  • Abandonment
  • Felony conviction
  • Humiliation that makes marriage intolerable

In the end, if Spousal Support is contested, the final say on the matter will be the judge. 

Spousal Support Enforcement in Virginia

Once a Spousal Support order is signed by a judge, it is enforceable. Most times, payment is set up through the employer and automatically sent to the supported spouse. Other times, the paying spouse pays the supported spouse directly. The arrangement of spousal support payments will be included in the order. 

If the paying spouse fails to pay, they can be held in contempt of court and could face fines and penalties. The supported spouse can file an enforcement action with the court and a hearing will be set. 

Contact a Spousal Support Lawyer in Northern Virginia Today

If you are seeking a divorce, you should always get the advice and guidance of an experienced divorce lawyer. At Van Hooser & Aguirre, P.C., our family law attorneys will provide the support and representation you need, including your efforts to obtain, argue against, or modify alimony. Contact us online or directly at 703-659-4402 to schedule a Consultation.