How is Spousal Support Determined in a Virginia Divorce?
Unlike child support in Virginia, there is no single universal formula applied statewide for determining spousal support. There are some guidelines in several counties, but it doesn’t mean they are binding in all courts. In addition, some of the established guidelines only apply to select circumstances, like cases where the spouses’ combined monthly income doesn’t exceed $10,000.
Spousal support cases can be complex in Virginia, and there has to a demonstrated disparity in income before most judges will award support at all. In other words, there is no guarantee that the court will award support in every case. Spousal support is also the hardest issue in domestic relations cases to predict so having an experience attorney who has litigated spousal support cases is essential to getting the best outcome possible.
If you and your ex are handling settlement negotiations and proceeding with an uncontested divorce, you have the flexibility to agree on your own amount for spousal support rather than gamble on whether the court will award any at all.
Determining Factors in Spousal Support
Virginia Code §20-107.1(E) says that when deciding whether or not to award spousal support, the court can consider all contributing factors to why the parties are seeking a dissolution. This means factors like adultery could actually result in the court barring you from spousal support entirely.
If the court decides a spouse is entitled to receive support, some of the factors it will rely on include:
- Standard of living establishing during the course of the marriage;
- How long the marriage lasted;
- Contributions, both financial and non-financial, of each party toward the family’s well-being;
- Needs, obligations, and resources of each party, which includes, but is not limited to, the income from all profit sharing, retirement, or pension plans;
- Each party’s earning capacity and present employment opportunities;
- Both parties’ interests, including real and personal, tangible and intangible;
- The extent that either party contributed to education, training, profession, etc. of the other party;
- Decisions and agreements made during the marriage on parenting arrangements, career, education, and what effect they have on present and future earning potential;
- What opportunities exist and the ability of a party to obtain the necessary education, training, and employment to learn the skills necessary to increase their earning ability; and
- Any other factors, like tax consequences for each party and any other important factors that may have contributed to the demise of the marriage.
If the court makes an award, the judge can choose that it be made on a temporary basis, a permanent basis, or even a combination of both. It can be in the form of periodic payments or a lump sum.
Changing or Terminating Spousal Support Payments
There may be options to have spousal support changed or terminated entirely. However, there must be a material change in the initial factors that were used. Spousal support will terminate if the recipient spouse remarries or passes away. If the recipient spouse tries to skirt the termination by not remarrying and living with a significant other for over a year, the court may also terminate payments, unless the recipient spouse can show how it’s unconscionable to do so.
Retaining a Virginia Spousal Support Attorney
If you have questions on spousal support or any other legal matters related to divorce in Virginia, it’s important to speak with a knowledgeable Leesburg spousal support attorney. Contact Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation.