Alimony (also known as spousal support) is regularly one of the most combative parts of any divorce, and horror stories about one party getting an unfair alimony judgment in the dissolution of their marriage abound.
Understanding the alimony process more thoroughly can help you fight for a better outcome. Today, we're taking an in-depth look at how alimony works in Virginia so you can prepare for your case.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony is supposed to provide whichever party obtains it with the financial stability they need to maintain the same quality of life as they experienced during the marriage.
How Can I Obtain Spousal Support in Virginia?
You must file a Petition for Spousal Support with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in the county where your spouse resides.
There are two types of spousal support orders:
- A temporary order. A temporary spousal support order will remain in place while the court finalizes the divorce the alimony case is associated with.
- A final order. A court can issue a final order that remains in place after the divorce is finalized.
After filing the petition, the parties have two choices:
- Draft an alimony agreement. If the parties agree on the need for spousal support (and how much should be administered), they can draft an agreement together detailing the terms for the spousal support arrangement.
- Attend a hearing and receive an order from a judge. If the parties disagree on terms for spousal support, they can attend a hearing in court. The parties will present evidence for their cases, after which the court will make a final judgment.
What Factors Does a Court Consider During an Alimony Case?
During a spousal support dispute, judges consider the following factors:
- How long the marriage lasted;
- If the alimony case is associated with a divorce, whether one party was at fault for the divorce through committing actions such as adultery, domestic violence, substance abuse, etc.;
- The financial resources each party possesses, including income, property, investments, debts, etc.;
- The roles each party played during the marriage;
- How much each party contributed to the marriage financially;
- Whether either party contributed to the other's professional training or education;
- The earning ability and education of the spouse requesting alimony, and whether that party requires any additional education or training to re-enter the workforce;
- The health and age of each party;
- How paying alimony would impact the alimony payor;
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
How much an alimony payor is responsible for depends on how the above factors impact the court's judgment of the parties and the resulting alimony arrangement.
Courts commonly use "pendente lite spousal support calculation" to quickly determine spousal support payments for pre-trial or emergency orders, which usually comes out to around 27% of the payor's gross monthly income if the parties don't share children.
Spousal support orders commonly last for around half of the parties' marriage but may last for more or less time, depending on the case's circumstances. In disputes where the parties were married for two or more decades, the court may decide permanent alimony is appropriate.
It's also worth noting that for alimony payors, payments are tax-deductible and are taxable income for recipients.
Can My Alimony Order Change?
Generally, alimony orders change when one party involved in the order files a modification case. If a party involved in an order experiences a substantial change in circumstances, they can file for a modification.
The most common reasons parties file for an alimony modification are:
- Either the party paying alimony experiences a substantial loss in income, or the party receiving it experiences a substantial increase in income;
- The party receiving alimony remarries, reducing their need for spousal support.
At The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, our spousal support attorneys help Virginians navigate complex alimony arrangements.