One important consideration in the divorce process is how each spouse will support themselves after the household is divided and each spouse is on their own. The primary reason for awarding spousal support (called “alimony” in other states) is to provide financial support and maintenance to the non-wage earning or lower-income earning spouse to prevent financial abandonment and/or a negative economic impact on the payee spouse. Many factors are considered when determining a support award, but a primary factor is the duration of the couple’s marriage, and how dependent they are on each other for support. The longer the term of the marriage and the larger disparity in income, the more likely the court will award spousal support (“alimony”) to a spouse whose income is considerably less than the other.
Spousal support is often determined in two different phases. The first amount of spousal support is determined while a divorce is pending or if a spouse requests spousal support in the juvenile and domestic relations district court. This is often called temporary spousal support. Often, it is determined by applying a formula; however, courts have the discretion to award support outside the guidelines based on the needs of the parties and the ability to pay.
The next phase of spousal support is the amount of support that is awarded once a divorce is finalized. This is often called “permanent” support, long term support or rehabilitative support. Spousal support is determined on a case-by-case basis, and when determining the amount of support, the Court is required to review certain factors set forth in the Code of Virginia.
Judges review a number of factors about each case when considering and awarding support, to include, but not limited to the following:
Since the laws in Virginia relating to spousal support were revised in 1998, judges no longer award permanent spousal support (spousal support is modifiable based upon certain circumstances, unless explicitly stated in an agreement), and have more flexibility in awarding support to an under-earning party. For a spouse who sacrificed education and/or career to raise children, “rehabilitative” support may be available so that he or she has the opportunity to seek retraining or additional education to become self-supportive, such as spouses of military members who relocated with the service member.
Pendente Lite Relief
A court can award temporary support, called “pendente lite,” which is only intended for the period prior to the divorce decree. This is designed to allow judges to quickly determine an amount for emergency or temporary support without going through another trial. The divorce process can be timely, so if a spouse is in need of that support immediately, he or she can request it before the trial date.
Requesting pendente lite relief can also include:
Pendente lite is also sometimes used as a barometer for awarding post-divorce spousal support.
Spousal Support Is Not Punitive Damages
Some people believe that getting spousal support is similar to the damages you receive in a personal injury case that “punishes” the other party for wrongdoing, such as adultery or abuse. Unfortunately, that is not really the case.
Although spousal support may be warranted in cases that involve abuse and/or adultery, it is not a given. Spousal support is simply monies paid to the party in the marriage to avoid economic disparity. Longer marriages may involve long-term or “permanent” spousal support, especially if one party is disabled or otherwise unable to work.
There are several reasons why you may decide to request spousal support. You may need time to get back on your feet after a divorce, or you may need support to provide for your maintenance
Whether you are in negotiations or you were awarded spousal support and your former spouse isn’t paying as ordered, we can help. For whatever reason you need spousal support, call us today to schedule your consultation at (757) 367-8888 or contact us online using our contact form.