It is common in a marriage for one spouse to be financially dependent on the other. One spouse may be a stay-at-home parent, or one may work but make less money than the other.
While married, this arrangement probably worked fine because you both shared in the costs of maintaining your household and lifestyle, but a difference in income may be a major issue in a divorce. If you made less money, you might worry about paying your bills, or you may be concerned about how much you will have to pay in spousal support if you are the spouse who makes more money.
Spousal support, also known as alimony or spousal maintenance, is an option in some Virginia divorce cases. According to Virginia law, spousal support cannot be used to reimburse a spouse for expenses or to punish a spouse, but it can be used as part of some divorce settlements.
When Spousal Support Is Awarded
In Virginia, a court may consider the following factors when deciding whether spousal support should be awarded:
- The financial needs of both spouses
- The financial obligations of both spouses
- The financial resources of both spouses
- The property interests of both spouses
- The standard of living the spouses had during the marriage
- The length of the marriage
- The age, physical condition, and mental condition of both spouses
- Any special circumstances of the family
- The monetary and non-monetary contributions of each spouse to the family
- How property is divided in the divorce agreement
- The earning capacity of each spouse
- Whether it is possible for a spouse to increase overall earning capacity, considering the person’s ability, time commitment, and cost
- The decisions made during the marriage about employment, education, parenting responsibilities, and other factors and the impact of these factors on earning potential
- The extent to which one spouse helped further the career or earning potential of the other spouse
- Other relevant factors including grounds for divorce and tax consequences
The court has a great deal of discretion about how these factors should be applied.
Types of Spousal Support in Virginia
If the court decides that spousal support is appropriate in your case, there are a few different ways you may receive spousal support. Specifically, the court may award:
- Periodic payments for an undefined duration. These regular payments will not end on a certain date but, instead, when an event happens such as death or remarriage or when the court orders it.
- Periodic payments for a defined duration. These payments are known as rehabilitative spousal support. Regular payments continue until a predetermined time following the divorce. However, payments may end early if a specific event such as death or remarriage occurs before the defined duration ends.
- Lump sum. A lump sum is a set amount that can either be paid when the court awards it or in installments until the full amount is paid.
- Temporary spousal support. Temporary spousal support may be awarded for the amount of time the divorce is pending. Once the divorce is final, temporary spousal support ends.
Additionally, the court may grant a reservation that allows a spouse to seek spousal support in the future. Generally, the length of time the reservation is in effect is equal to one half of the length of the marriage. There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of spousal support.
Talk About Spousal Support With a Virginia Divorce Attorney
Spousal support, like many divorce decisions, is highly dependent on your unique situation. Whether you are the spouse requesting spousal support or you are the spouse who pays, you need to know how to protect your rights.
A dedicated divorce lawyer knows what factors are relevant, what questions to ask you, and most importantly how to answer your questions, so you know what to expect during the divorce proceedings and once your divorce is final. If you're located in Midlothian, Chesterfield County, or the greater Richmond area, please contact Quest Law PLLC today to learn more about your rights.