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Spousal Support Awards in Virginia

Spousal support in Virginia is the payment of money from one spouse to another.  Other states commonly refer to this as “alimony.”  In Virginia, there are three instances where a court may award a litigant spousal support.  The three instances are:  (1) in juvenile court, (2) in a divorce proceeding pendente lite, and (3) as part of a final award of divorce.  Each instance depends on and the facts and circumstances present, and the potential outcome depends heavily on the skills and knowledge of the party’s legal representation.

First, spousal support can be awarded by a Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court between parties that are married and living separately.  In these types of cases, the presumptive amount of support is based on a formula which is set by the Virginia Code.  In cases where no child support has been ordered, that amount is the payor spouse’s gross monthly income times 30%, minus the payee’s gross monthly income times 50%.  In cases where child support is also ordered, the amount is the payor spouses gross monthly income times 28%, minus the payee’s gross monthly income times 58% (See Virginia Code § 16.1-278.17 ).  The party seeking support must also prove a need for support, as well as the ability of the other spouse to pay the support.  This commonly accomplished through the use of an Income & Expense Sheet.  If support is ordered in this type of case the spousal support award continues indefinitely until a further court order.

The second instance in Virginia when spousal support can be awarded is in divorce proceedings in a Virginia circuit court pending the final outcome of a divorce.  This support is referred to as “pendente lite spousal support,” or “temporary spousal support.”  The amount of pendente lite support in most courts is based on the need of the payee spouse and ability to pay demonstrated by the payor spouse.  However, numerous courts also use the guideline amount espoused in Virginia Code § 16.1-278.17 explained above.  The duration of this award is until the entry of the final decree of divorce.

The final instance where spousal support can be awarded is by a circuit court as part of an award of divorce and entry of a final divorce decree.  Unlike the other two instances, this award depends on numerous factors to be considered by the court.  Those factors include the duration of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, the standard of living established during the marriage, the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, and the opportunity of each party to obtain education and training (See Virginia Code § 20-107.1 ).  There is no rule for the amount or duration of support.  As a rule of thumb, most judges will follow a half the length of the marriage rule for the duration, but awards include a lump sum, support for a specific duration, and indefinite awards until the death of either party or remarriage of the payee spouse. This why legal representation so critical to obtaining a positive result in this situation as the judge has almost total discretion.

Are you seeking legal help for a case involving spousal support or alimony in Virginia? Call Bush & Taylor at 757-935-5544 today or use our contact form to the right of this article. We have offices in Suffolk, Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore to serve you.