Alimony (Spousal Support) in Virginia
Virginia spousal support is when one spouse makes payments to the other spouse after the couple has divorced. You may have heard this commonly referred to as alimony.
The terms spousal support and alimony can be used interchangeably, but the rules in Virginia specifically refer to the payments as spousal support (as we have in this article). Which goes to show, just as one of the terms may be used more in some states than others, the rules governing spousal support also vary from state to state.
This article will focus on Virginia spousal support.
For more information on the divorce process in Virginia, check out our “5 Steps to a Successful Virginia Divorce.”
How is Virginia Spousal Support Awarded?
You and your spouse may mutually agree upon a spousal support award in a written separation agreement or, if things get ugly, a judge may award spousal support.
Judges determine spousal support awards on a case-by-case basis. In Virginia, the judge may consider a number of factors when deciding whether to award spousal support and the duration of the award.
Some of the factors may include:
- The length of the marriage;
- The financial needs and resources of the parties;
- The age, physical and mental conditions of the parties;
- The couple’s standard of living during the marriage;
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage;
- The earning capacity and highest level of education of the parties;
- The time needed for the dependent spouse to gain financial independence; and
- Any other factors the judge finds relevant.
Are There Any Circumstances Where Virginia Spousal Support Cannot Be Awarded?
A spouse may be barred from receiving spousal support if he or she committed adultery and it was the reason for the divorce. However, a judge could award spousal support to a cheating spouse if he finds that denial would be a “manifest injustice.” This is a hard standard to meet.
What Are The Different Types Of Virginia Spousal Support?
There are different types of Virginia spousal support and each is generally characterized by its duration. Here, we will discuss the types of spousal support often awarded in Virginia, including pendente lite, rehabilitative, permanent, and lump sum.
“Pendente lite” Spousal Support
Spousal support pendente lite (which is Latin for “pending the litigation”) is awarded temporarily while the parties are litigating to determine their respective rights stemming from the marriage.
This type of spousal support is usually based solely on a spouse’s financial need during the divorce proceedings. Once the divorce is finalized, spousal support pendente lite stops and the final award (if there is one) kicks in.
Rehabilitative Spousal Support
Rehabilitative spousal support is—you guessed it—for rehabilitating the dependent spouse. The goal of this type of spousal support is to help the recipient spouse become more self-sufficient.
For instance, the recipient spouse may have stopped working during the marriage. In order to enter back into the workplace, the spouse may need (or want) to receive more education or training.
Rehabilitative spousal support usually takes the form of periodic payments made for a set amount of time. During that time, the recipient spouse can take up classes, or any other type of training, in order to help him or her ease back into the working world.
Permanent Spousal Support
Unlike rehabilitative spousal support, permanent spousal support takes the form of periodic payments for an indefinite amount of time. It is usually awarded when the recipient spouse is unable to financially support him or herself, even with additional education or training.
Typically, this may be due to the recipient spouse’s age or if the spouse has a mental or physical disability.
Lump Sum Spousal Support
Lump sum spousal support is unlike both rehabilitative and permanent spousal support because instead of periodic payments, the receiving spouse may receive the entire support award in a single payment.
A judge may choose to award lump sum spousal support when periodic payments are unlikely to occur for a specific reason. If the judge believes that the paying spouse will blow through their money unreasonably fast due to his or her shopping addiction, gambling problem, or substance abuse, the judge may award the receiving spouse lump sum spousal support.
Why Do I Have to Pay Virginia Spousal Support?
It is understandable that you would very much like to avoid an order to pay Virginia spousal support. Many people (if not all) feel the exact same way. Spousal support payments can make you feel like you will never be completely done with your ex after the divorce or like you are being punished.
However, during marriage each spouse takes care of and supports the other spouse. This duty to support one another does not automatically disappear as soon as the divorce is finalized. Some spouses may never regain their financial independence and for some it may just take time.
When Can I Stop Paying Virginia Spousal Support?
If the court ordered you to pay spousal support for a set amount of time, you will usually have to pay until that time comes. However, the duration of spousal support may be cut short in a number of situations, like when:
- The recipient spouse gets remarried;
- The recipient spouse lives with a romantic partner for more than a year; or
- Either spouse dies.
These circumstances may terminate both rehabilitative and permanent spousal support awards. Additionally, rehabilitative spousal support may be modified when the recipient spouse becomes employed and financially stable.
Can I Have My Virginia Spousal Support Award Modified?
Not only can a Virginia spousal support award be terminated, but it can also be increased or decreased. You or your spouse may ask the court to modify the spousal support award based on a significant change in either of your circumstances. However, a judge may refuse to modify spousal support that was part of a separation agreement.
Understanding the basics of spousal support in Virginia can help you in your divorce proceedings. If you feel you are entitled to Virginia spousal support, or you hope to avoid paying it, contact a lawyer today.