Once the court decides that spousal support is applicable, it will take into consideration a variety of factors in order to determine the amount of spousal support, how long it should be paid, and how often payments should be made. The following is a non-exhaustive list of those factors:
The court has the ability to order that the payments be made on a temporary basis, permanently, or a combination of the two. Payments could also be made in a lump sum, periodically, or both.
Additionally, a spouse could ask the court to reserve his or her right to receive support in the future, but there is a limit to how long this reservation lasts. Once the court approves the request, the reservation lasts only for half the time of the marriage (ending on the date of separation).
Temporary alimony falls into two distinct categories:
This refers to support for an indefinite period of time, terminated by the death of either party or the remarriage of the dependent spouse.
Technical alimony means that the number of payments can be modified after the divorce if the agreement states that the payments are dependent upon certain conditions and those conditions warrant it. Either spouse can position the court for an increase or decrease in payments.
Fixed alimony cannot be modified by the court regardless of a change in circumstances. It must be stated in the original agreement that the alimony is to be fixed or the court will understand it to be modifiable at a later date.
In Virginia, the law dictates that spousal support is only awarded when necessary. Generally, the courts have awarded support in marriages that are long-term, where there is a large income gap between the parties, or where a spouse has a disability or doesn’t have a job.
If the judge awards temporary support while the divorce is pending, the order terminates when the judge finalizes the divorce.
Rehabilitative, or temporary post-divorce support, is typically short-term and ends on the date ordered by the judge. The court might instead set a future event, such as the completion of a degree program, as the end date.
If the supported spouse needs spousal support beyond the end date, the spouse can request that the judge grant an extension. Permanent spousal support, unless otherwise specified by the court, is indefinite.
Regardless of the terms of spousal support, if the supported spouse remarries or cohabitates, the court will automatically terminate the reward. The same is true if either spouse dies.
Judges can order periodic payments which are generally monthly, lump-sum payments, or order property transfers to pay for spousal support. If you are concerned that your spouse won’t pay, you can ask the court to issue an income deduction order, which directs your spouse’s employer to deduct the support amount from the employee’s paycheck.
Failure to comply with court-ordered spousal support is a serious offense that can result in the court ordering the non-compliant party to pay fines or court costs, seizing their tax returns, or sentencing them to jail.