How Long Am I Going to Pay Alimony in Virginia?

By | February 16, 2011
fairfax family law spouse support

“Alimony is like buying hay for a dead horse.”

­— Groucho Marx, quoted in the New Haven Connecticut Register.

Not too long ago, Jennifer Levitz of the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “The New Art of Alimony,” which cited a series of complaints by alimony payers in Massachusetts and Florida.  One Massachusetts man bemoaned the plight of his second wife, who took on a second job to help her current husband pay alimony to his first wife.  Another man complained about being ordered to pay alimony two decades after the parties’ divorced – and after they formally agreed to waive alimony – because his former spouse had suddenly fallen ill.

The crux of these collective grumblings was more the disconcerting duration of alimony than the amount of the payments, though amounts certainly matter.  Americans gave $9.4 billion to former spouses in 2007, up from $5.6 billion a decade earlier, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Men accounted for 97 percent of alimony-payers in 2008, though women-payers are steadily rising.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers provides a useful guideline for determining duration of spousal support:  “The duration of the award is arrived at by multiplying the length of the marriage by the following factors:  0-3 years (.3); 3-10 (.5); 10-20 years (.75); over 20 years permanent alimony.”  These general guidelines may be useful for framing an initial support discussion, but, like many things in family law, they are subject to a host of deviating factors.

Spousal support is a significant part of any family law practice, particularly in Fairfax and Loudoun County, Virginia.  The U.S. Census Bureau reported that about 7 percent of divorce agreements provide for alimony or spousal-support payments.  In my practice, however, nearly all divorce agreements address spousal support and perhaps 75 percent involve a support payment by one spouse to the other.  If you have questions about spousal support, please feel free to give me a call.

Jason A. Weis, Esquire – Curran Moher Weis P.C. – – 10300 Eaton Place, Suite 520, Fairfax, VA 22030 – 571-328-5020


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