Does My Spouse Have To Pay Spousal Support During Our Separation?
Divorce proceedings do not become finalized overnight and financially dependant spouses rarely land back on their feet immediately after filing for separation. Recognizing these pitfalls, Virginia divorce courts may order one spouse to make spousal support payments to the financially dependent spouse during the separation, before the divorce is even finalized.
Temporary spousal support is often referred to as pendente lite spousal support and is meant to aid the transition process until marital assets are formally divided and longer term support is established by the courts. While Virginia Code § 20-103 has held this to be public policy for many years now, until recently there were certain ways spouses ordered to pay the spousal support could attempt to skirt the intent of the law.
Who pays for temporary spousal support before a divorce is final?
While Virginia divorce courts have made clear rulings on who will pay temporary spousal support before a divorce is final, until recently it was not always clear where this money would come from. In February 2013, a Virginia Circuit Court held in Wright v. Wright the paying spouse did not necessarily have to use his separate income to provide for his wife’s spousal support during the proceedings.
In the case of Wright v. Wright, courts ordered the husband to provide significant spousal support to his wife, which he paid with the couple’s joint bank account. Meanwhile, the husband put his separate income into a private account to which the wife had no access.
Attorneys for the wife attempted to make the argument the husband should pay for the spousal support from his own income and cease the depletion of the couple’s joint savings. Unfortunately for the wife, the Virginia Circuit Court interpreted the law at the time to hold the husband’s income was separate property and was not subject to division by the courts.
Starting July 1 2016, spouses will no longer be able to use the same trick to protect their separate income as legislatures passed laws to close this loophole and bring spousal support in line with the greater public policy of equitable distribution.
Why does my spouse get spousal support before a divorce is final?
Under Virginia divorce laws, couples must be legally separated and cease cohabitation (living together) for at least six months before filing for divorce. This is to show the courts the couple has irreconcilable differences and the marriage must be dissolved.
During this important six-month separation period, a spouse who was otherwise out of the workforce or unable to provide for themselves will obviously need housing, food, and other important resources to survive. For these reasons and others, courts are willing to award temporary spousal support to aid in this transition before a divorce is finalized.
Northern Virginia Divorce Attorneys
If you are facing a divorce and feel as though you require temporary spousal support to aid you in your time of need, contact our office for a consultation about your case. The experienced Northern Virginia divorce attorneys of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC serve clients throughout Northern Virginia, including Loudoun, Fairfax, and Prince William Counties.