Frequently Asked Questions About Virginia Spousal Support (Alimony)

By | September 14, 2011
fairfax family law division of assests

How can I get spousal support and how long can I receive payment?  

There are no hard and fast guidelines for determining either the amount or duration of spousal support in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Certain jurisdictions such as Fairfax County publish temporary (pendente lite) spousal support guidelines, which may be used to calculate support pending a formal, final support hearing.  The touchstone consideration for determining whether and how much spousal support may be required is one spouse’s financial need balanced against the other’s ability to pay.  If the divorce will leave one spouse with very little income and the other with sufficient income to contribute support, generally the court will award support. In the classic case, spousal support is awarded to a homemaker who has put his/her career on hold for the benefit of the family and paid by the wage-earning spouse who has worked during the marriage and enjoyed the benefit of a steadily increasing income.  In short-term marriages of say less than ten (10) years, that assistance may continue for a period equal to one-half the duration of the marriage.  That period is loosely calculated to enable the recipient spouse to further his/her education, receive job training and
reestablish him/herself in the workforce. For longer term marriages of say fifteen (15) years or more, such rehabilitation may not be possible and support may continue indefinitely.  No two parties’ circumstances are the same and thus support amounts and durations tend to vary.

What factors will the court consider when setting the permanent spousal support?

The following are some of the factors the court will consider in order spousal support:

  • The earning capacity of each party, including their education, skills and work experience;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The supporting party’s ability to pay;
  • The parties’ respective contributions to the marriage;
  • The needs of each party including the minor children;
  • The duration of the marriage; and
  • The tax consequences to the parties.

May I accept spousal support in a lump sum payment instead of a monthly payment?

Yes, you are free to accept spousal support in nearly any form you wish. Though accepting regular monthly payments for a specific duration is most common, spouses can agree to one-time, lump sum payments, transfers of assets or payment of certain expenses in lieu of “regular” support.  The parties may also agree that the support amount either increase or decrease over time to account for the recipient spouse’s financial needs.

If you’ve got questions about the information above, please feel free to drop me a line.  Jason A. Weis, Esquire – Curran Moher Weis P.C. – jweis@curranmoher.com – 10300 Eaton Place, Suite 520, Fairfax, VA 22030 – 571-328-5020.




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