The decision to get a divorce is never easy, and the process can be complex. Not only do you have to deal with potentially difficult conversations involving matters of custody, finances, and division of assets – you may also need to navigate how spousal support will be determined. That’s why it’s important to take some time out to learn more about spousal support; from what it means for both parties involved as well as legal proceedings that need to be taken in order to ensure fairness during a divorce settlement. In this blog post, we’re going to dive deep into exactly what spousal support entails including responsibilities and eligibility requirements so that no one is left wondering about their rights or obligations when finalizing a divorce.
First, let’s define what spousal support is. Spousal support (also referred to as “alimony”) is an amount of money that one spouse pays to the other for their maintenance and support pending the divorce finalization, and for some period of time afterward. The payments are made by the higher-earning party, so that the lower-earning party is not financially disabled during and after the legal proceedings.
When it comes to determining if spousal support is applicable in a given divorce, there are multiple statutory factors that need to be taken into consideration. The court will consider the length of the marriage, both spouses’ incomes, financial needs and abilities of each spouse, whether either party is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed, the amount of assets each will have following the divorce and how much income might be generated by those assets, and any other relevant factors that may affect one or both parties involved.
When it comes to determining what is an appropriate spousal support payment, there is no calculation in Virginia–it is entirely up to the judge’s discretion based on the factors in each individual case. It is important to understand that while the payments are usually made on a monthly basis, the court may also order a lump sum payment in lieu of monthly spousal support payments, although this outcome is rare. It is also important for spouses to know that spousal support payments are typically only required if one spouse earns significantly higher than the other; spousal support is not intended to equalize the parties’ incomes. In many cases the court will not require either party to pay spousal support to the other.
In addition to an understanding of what spousal support is and how it is determined, it’s also important to understand that court-ordered spousal support payments are always subject to modification if there is a material change in circumstances in the future. This could happen if there has been a significant change in income for either spouse or if one spouse needs more financial assistance than the court initially ordered. If you and your spouse agree to the amount and duration of spousal support in a divorce settlement, you can also agree that it will not be subject to modification in the future–or put parameters around the circumstances under which it can be modified.
Finally, spousal support is always terminated automatically if the recipient spouse remarries, or if either party dies. If the recipient spouse does not remarry but instead begins cohabiting with a romantic partner in a relationship similar to a marriage for a year or more, the paying spouse can file a motion with the court asking that spousal support be terminated.
When it comes to divorce, understanding spousal support can be key in providing both parties with the financial security they need during and after the process. It’s important to consider all aspects of spousal support when going through a divorce in order to ensure that no one is left struggling financially due to the proceedings. If you have more questions about spousal support and the divorce process, it may be beneficial to consult with a family law attorney for more information.
Mullett Dove & Bradley Family Law understands the challenging process of navigating spousal support and are here to help. Our experienced attorneys work with each client to enforce or modify a spousal support order, understanding that every case is unique. We provide personalized advice on what options our clients have available to them, helping them make decisions for their future. Contact us today to learn more about how we can work together to help you through this life-changing process.