Spousal Support in Virginia

Spousal support is a form of monetary support paid to the more financially dependent spouse and is based on a number of factors, including length of the marriage and financial ability of each party. The terms “spousal support” and “alimony” (also “maintenance”) are generally used interchangeably. While the court may or may not award spousal support, parties are able to enter into agreements that provide for different combinations of support, payment methods, or durations. The parties can even waive their rights to spousal support by agreement, which the court cannot modify down the line. The Role of “Fault” on Spousal Support Before it may order support, a court first determines whether the spouse seeking support is barred from getting it. Generally, if a court finds a spouse is guilty of adultery, that spouse will be barred from receiving support, barring special findings. Even then, if a denial of spousal support “would constitute a manifest injustice,” a spouse who committed adultery may be eligible to receive support. Spousal Support Factors When deciding whether to award spousal support and how much, the court will consider the following factors:
  • obligations, needs and financial resources of the spouses, including income from pension, profit-sharing or retirement plans
  • standard of living established during the marriage
  • duration of the marriage
  • age and physical and mental condition of the spouses, and any special family circumstances
  • each spouse’s contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, to the well-being of the family
  • each spouse’s financial assets
  • provisions made with regard to distribution of the marital property
  • extent to which age, condition of special circumstances of any child of the spouses would make it appropriate for one spouse to stay home
  • the extent to which either spouse contributed to the other’s education, training, career position or profession
  • the spouses’ earning capacity and the current employment opportunities for people with that earning capacity
  • opportunity for and ability of the spouses to get education and training to enhance earning ability
  • decisions regarding work and parenting that the spouses made during the marriage, and their effect on earning potential, including the length of time either spouse has been out of the job market
  • provisions made with regard to distribution of the marital property, and
  • any other factors, including the tax consequences to each spouse, necessary to arrive at a fair result.
(Va. Code Section 20-107.1.) Spousal Support Guidelines In setting temporary or permanent support, the court will take into consideration the local guidleines. The Fairfax guidelines are frequently used to set temporary spousal support throughout the Northern Virginia Area. The calculation for support is as follows; WITHOUT CHILD SUPPORT: 30% Higher-earning spouse’s gross income MINUS 50% Lower-earning spouse’s gross income WITH CHILD SUPPORT: 28% Higher-earning spouse’s gross income MINUS 58% Lower-earning spouse’s gross income However, the calculations are not strictly adhered to, especially when the court is faced with a high-income family. For purposes of temporary spousal support cases, “high-income” is defined as parties with a combined gross monthly income of over $10,000. In those cases, the court will often consider the actual needs of the recipient in setting the spousal support award.

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