Also known as spousal support, alimony is ordered with the purpose to keep a party who has been financially dependent on a marital relationship in the lifestyle with which they have become accustomed. Traditionally, when most women did not work outside of the home and were solely dependent on their husband’s income, it served to protect them from poverty. The modern role of spousal support is to serve as an equalizing force between the parties. It seeks to put the parties on essentially equal footing.
There are two ways the court can calculate the support. The first is to look primarily at the two parties respective incomes and essentially split the difference between them. The second is to look at the income and expenses of each party and to calculate the support payment to put each party in the same financial position. If the two party’s financial states are close enough together, no spousal support would normally be awarded.
The court may also consider other factors which may increase or lower the support obligation. These may be extraordinary contributions one party may have made to the financial future of the other party, one party’s ability to be self supporting despite current income, and even fault in the dissolution of the marriage.
How Long is Alimony Paid?
Traditionally support was ordered for the life of the spouse, however the court can limit the support for a particular time. This is typically when the parties have been married for only a few years and the spouse receiving the support has the ability to eventually provide his or her own support.
However, if a spouse has become disabled during the marriage and will not be able to reasonably live without the support of the other party, the court will award lifetime support. If a party who is receiving support enters into another marriage or a relationship that is essentially the equivalent of marriage, the obligation to continue the support will end.
Spousal Support in Virginia
Divorce is never an easy decision and frequently presents financial challenges for the parties. For instance, a significant disparity in the earning power between the parties could leave one of them struggling to make ends meet. The experienced Virginia alimony attorneys at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C. in Hampton Roads may be able to assist their client in receiving spousal support to close the financial gap.
Virginia Marital Alimony Lawyers Use the Law to Help Clients
In most cases, parents are obligated to support their children even after a separation or divorce. A child support award is based on guidelines applicable to parents whether they reside in Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach or elsewhere in the commonwealth. A spousal support award is based upon need and other factors included in Virginia Code Section 20-107.1. Judges take into consideration the following factors when determining spousal support:
- Financial needs, obligations and resources of the parties
- Duration of the marriage
- Standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage
- Age, physical condition and mental health of each of the parties
- Special or unusual circumstances specific to the family
- Inability of one spouse to work outside the home due to age or other factors pertaining to a child of the marriage
- Monetary and nonmonetary contributions made by each party
- Real and personal property owned by each of the parties
- Provisions made in the divorce for equitable distribution of marital assets
- Education, skills and training of each party as they pertain to the ability to obtain employment and earning capacity
- Contribution of each party to the education or career advancement of the other, such as when one spouse works to put the other through medical school
- Employment decisions made during the marriage
- Length of time a party has been away from the job market
Judges are also authorized to take other factors besides those listed in the statute into consideration in making their decision regarding alimony. Tax consequences and the conduct of each of the parties in contributing to the breakup of the marriage may also be considered by the court. If the parties cannot reach an agreement with the aid of Virginia alimony attorneys, a court must identify in the paperwork accompanying its order the factors supporting the decision to grant, reserve or deny the request for alimony.
Effect of Divorce Grounds on Alimony
The prevalence of divorce in today's society might lead people to believe the particular grounds upon which the termination of a marriage is based is not as important as financial, custody and property division issues, but they would be wrong. An experienced Hampton divorce attorney knows judges may take into consideration the circumstances and conduct of each party contributing to the end of the marriage in deciding alimony, and a Judge may deny spousal support to a spouse proven to have committed adultery.
An attorney representing someone accused of adultery may argue that the denial of spousal support would be an injustice. The lawyer might seek to show a disparity in the financial circumstances of each of the parties making the denial of alimony inequitable. In some cases, a person that has committed adultery may still receive spousal support if his or her lawyer can show denying spousal support would lead to an injustice.
Types of Spousal Support
Couples who are separating or seeking a divorce can negotiate and agree on any type or combination of support and incorporate them into a property settlement agreement. Contested divorces, however, leave the decision to the court with the following options available to it:
- Periodic payments: Payments from one party to the other paid at specific intervals, such as weekly, monthly or quarterly, are referred to as permanent alimony because it continues until the death of either party or the remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse in a relationship akin to a marriage for a year or longer. If a court orders periodic payments for a specific duration, such as a year or five years, the payments are considered to be rehabilitative in nature because they are intended to last only as long as necessary for the spouse to become self-supporting.
- Lump sum payment: A court may order a lump sum as alimony instead of periodic payments. The amount can be paid in a single payment or in installments
- Reservation: When a court neither denies nor grants a spouse's request for alimony, it can grant a reservation. Reservation means the individual can make a future request for alimony within a specific length of time as stated in the judge's order.
Courts have the discretion to order a combination of the different types of alimony depending upon the financial circumstances of the parties. Depending upon the circumstances, the Judge may award temporary alimony paid during the duration of the divorce proceedings. This might occur when there is a disparity in the wage-earning ability of the parties and one spouse could use it to exert financial pressure on the other to get an advantage in negotiations during the divorce proceedings.
Modification of Alimony
Regardless of the type of alimony awarded, a lawyer can file a request for a modification in the future. Modification of alimony orders requires proof of a material change in the circumstances of either the person paying alimony or the one receiving it.
Courts do not have the authority to modify the alimony provisions of negotiated agreement signed by the parties. Unless the written agreement includes language specifically allowing for its modification in the future, a court cannot interfere with its terms without proof that a legal basis, such as fraud or duress, exists for invalidating all or part of the agreement. This stability is one of the reasons people whose marital discord has not reached the point of hostility should speak to a lawyer about a property settlement agreement.
Getting Skilled Representation From Hampton Road Attorneys
The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., has a skilled team of marital alimony lawyers to protect the rights and safeguard the financial futures of the people we represent. Anyone facing divorce and family law issues should contact us today at (757) 896-0868 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
We have four Hampton Roads locations in Virginia Beach, Hampton, Chesapeake and Newport News serving the surrounding cities and counties of Poquoson, Yorktown, Williamsburg, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, as well as York, James City and Gloucester Counties.
Our attorneys have more than 70 years of combined experience to put to work on behalf of our clients.