Do I have to pay spousal support?
Spousal support can be a major aspect of divorce cases in Virginia. The court may order temporary support while the case is pending and may order time-limited or even permanent spousal support at the end of the case. Spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance in other states, is not to be confused with child support or equitable distribution (the division of assets). The amount and length of time one may pay or collect spousal support depends on the circumstances surrounding each marriage and divorce. A couple may decide to enter a spousal support agreement on their own or have an order dictated by the court. In either case, the advice of an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney will be to your advantage.
How is spousal support determined?Unlike child support, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not have a statewide formula for determining either the amount or duration of spousal support. The basic consideration for determining who pays, how much, and the duration of support is based on the recipient spouse’s financial need balanced against the other’s ability to pay. Fairfax County does use guidelines, similar to child support guidelines, to determine temporary or “pendente lite” support: the support paid by one spouse to the other during the period after filing until the divorce is final. Nevertheless, depending on the judge and the jurisdiction, circuit courts in Virginia may look to these local guidelines for assistance in determining a proper spousal support amount and many judges will use these guidelines as a starting point in evaluating spousal support.
Factors affecting spousal support in VirginiaCourts consider a number of factors in order to grant a fair spousal support agreement, including those listed in Virginia Code 20-107.1. While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the most common factors reviewed by family court judges:
- Length of marriage
- Standard of living
- Income of both spouses including property and assets
- Minor children and their ages
- Age and health (physical and mental) of both spouses
- Earning potential of each spouse
- Current living expenses
- Financial support and contributions each spouse made to the other’s education and career during the marriage and to the well-being of the marriage
- Potential to receive inheritance or other assets
- Retirement benefits
- Financial obligations of each spouse
- Time needed for dependent spouse to seek employment or earn the qualifications needed to obtain gainful employment
- Tax consequences to each party