Alimony in Virginia
Alimony, referred to in Virginia as spousal support, consists of periodic payments awarded to a financially dependent spouse when the couple ends their marriage.
Spousal support payments can be determined in two ways.
A couple may decide to negotiate a spousal support agreement on their own, or spousal support can be determined by the court through a trial. In either case, the advice of an aggressive and experienced family law attorney can help protect your interests and well-being.
Under Virginia Code Section 20-107.1, a person may be ordered to pay support to a spouse or former spouse. Awards of permanent spousal support have fallen out of fashion with the courts, but spousal support remains an important facet of divorce litigation.
Does Virginia Have Spousal Support Guidelines?
Virginia does not have an alimony calculation chart for determining a “presumptive” amount of spousal support. Unlike child support, the Court will not necessarily rely on a hard and fast formula for spousal support. Instead the Court will look at each couple's situation individually to determine if ordering alimony is appropriate.
Judges take into consideration the following factors when determining spousal support:
- Each party's income,
- Each party's expenses,
- The standard of living established during the marriage,
- The duration of the marriage,
- Age of the parties,
- Any physical and/or mental conditions of the parties,
- Each party's ability to work,
- The monetary and non-monetary contributions each party made to the family,
- The property interests of the parties,
- The way marital property was divided,
- The education, skills and training of each party as they pertain to the ability to obtain employment and earning capacity,
- Length of time a party has been away from the job market,
- 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, and
- Tax consequences.
A good example of a party who might receive spousal support is a stay-at-home dad who dropped out of high school and suffered a stroke that left him unable to care for himself after a 30 year marriage.
Strategically, the parties may decide to divide assets in such a way that spousal support is unnecessary. However, should the parties be unable to agree as to how they are going to divide things, the Court may decide that one party should continue to support the other.
Can Alimony be Barred in Virginia?
Yes. A person's right to alimony may be cut off if it is proven that he/she committed adultery.
However, proving adultery can be very difficult so it is important to retain an attorney experienced in handling this issue before attempting it in court.
In some cases, a person that has committed adultery may still receive spousal support if his/her lawyer can show that denying spousal support would lead to an injustice. For example, a lawyer may argue that the disparity in the financial circumstances of each of the parties would make the denial of alimony inequitable.
Can Alimony or Spousal Support be Modified in Virginia?
Yes, a lawyer can file a request for a modification. Modification of alimony orders requires proof of a material change in the circumstances of either the person paying alimony or the one receiving it.
However, courts do NOT have the authority to modify the alimony provisions of negotiated agreement signed by the parties, UNLESS the written agreement includes a provision specifically allowing for its modification.
Without such a provision a court cannot interfere with an agreement's terms without proof that a legal basis, such as fraud or duress, exists for invalidating all or part of the agreement. This is one of the reasons it is very important to utilize the assistance of an experienced attorney before entering into any sort of spousal support agreement.
Predicting Virginia Alimony Outcomes
Like many areas of the law, giving an accurate prediction about whether spousal support will be provided is more of an art than a science. Two judges may vary wildly in their evaluations of the case. Consulting with an attorney early on in the process can help you avoid costly litigation expenses. Contact our office now to schedule a free confidential consultation with an experienced Virginia family law attorney.