One of the biggest considerations during divorce proceedings is the matter of spousal support, also known as alimony. Spousal support is an amount of money paid by one spouse to the more financially dependent spouse. The amount of spousal support awarded to a spouse is based on multiple factors. Spousal support is not the same as the division of assets.
Types of Spousal Support
There are 3 main types of spousal support: a lump sum; periodic payments for an undefined duration; and periodic payments for a defined duration. A court may award a spouse spousal support based on one of these three types, or a combination. A pre or post nuptial agreement may include provisions establishing the type or amount of spousal support paid to a spouse in the event of divorce, as well as a waiver of the right to spousal support. Courts will typically not modify such agreements.
- Lump Sum – a set amount due when the award is made. The sum may be paid at once or in installments, but the total amount of support awarded is known.
- Periodic Payments for an Undefined Duration – specific sum of money paid to a former spouse at designated intervals (such as monthly or annually). The payments typically continue until the occurrence of a specific event, such as the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the spouse receiving support.
- Periodic Payments for a Defined Duration – specific sum of money paid to a former spouse at designated intervals with a specified end date (usually a term of years). However, payments may terminate early upon the occurrence of specific events, such as the remarriage of the spouse receiving support.
Factors Considered When Determining Spousal Support
Courts have discretion when determining whether a spouse should receive support and what amount of support should be awarded. When making these determinations, courts consider many factors, including:
- The obligations, needs, and financial resources of the spouses;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age and physical and mental condition of the spouses;
- The monetary and nonmonetary contributions of each spouse to the well-being of the family;
- The property interests of the spouses and division of property during divorce proceedings;
- The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the spouses; and
- The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party.
The court may also consider other factors, including circumstances that contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, such as any instances of adultery or other grounds for divorce. Spouses may also be barred from receiving spousal support, such as in divorce resulting from adultery. These factors are also considered when a court considers the duration of support.
An award of spousal support can typically be modified if a spouse can show a material change in circumstances justifying a modification of the award. Courts can increase or decrease the support award or duration or terminate support altogether.
Pendente Lite Spousal Support
Virginia law allows a court to award temporary support while court proceedings take place to determine spousal support and related divorce matters. This pendente lite spousal support lasts until the conclusion of the case, at which point a court will make a final determination on whether or not spousal support will be awarded after the divorce and in what amount.
The Virginia Code sets out a specific formula for determining the amount of pendente lite support, if the spouses’ combined monthly gross income doesn’t exceed $10,000. If the spouses have minor children, the presumptive amount of pendente lite spousal support and maintenance is the difference between 26% of the payor spouse's monthly gross income and 58% of the payee spouse's monthly gross income. If the spouses don’t have minor children, the presumptive amount of the award is the difference between 27% of the payor spouse's monthly gross income and 50% of the payee spouse's monthly gross income. The court must follow the formula set for determining pendente lite support unless “good cause” is shown.
Our family law attorneys are experienced representing payor and payees in divorce and support proceedings. Call us today and we can help you ensure your interests are protected.