Are you and your spouse divorcing? Are you worried about what will happen after everything is done, and whether you will be able to maintain your standard of living? Not knowing how your life will change can be a terrifying feeling, and the anxiety and stress can be crippling.
You are not alone, and you should understand that spousal support, also called alimony, is there for just that reason. It is designed to provide monetary support when one spouse has not earned enough during the marriage to allow them to continue to make ends meet and keep living in the manner to which they have become accustomed.
It can be difficult, time-consuming, and contentious to get an alimony agreement or order from the courts. It can also be frustrating and stressful at a time when you have enough to deal with, from the division of property to child custody and child support. It is important during these difficult times that you have someone in your corner who can take up the fight on your behalf and help you get the support you need, and to which you are entitled under the law.
A Virginia spousal support divorce attorney at the law firm of Montagna Law can help protect your lifestyle and rights and fight to get you the settlement agreement you deserve in your divorce case. To speak to a Virginia Spousal Support attorney, reach us through our contact page or call 757-622-6851.
Spousal support is a payment from a higher-earning spouse to a lower-earning spouse (a dependent spouse) that is designed to provide the financial security the dependent spouse needs after the end of a marriage. It is designed to make sure that both spouses can meet their financial obligations and continue to live comfortably with the same standard of living they had during the marriage.
During the duration of the marriage, each spouse becomes accustomed to living a certain way, and when determining the amount of spousal support awarded, the court considers what is necessary for each spouse to maintain this level of comfort. The result is the order for alimony or spousal support.
Spousal support can be paid to a dependent spouse during divorce proceedings, for a certain period of time afterward, or both. The duration of support is determined by many factors, including how long it might take the spouse receiving support to gain the skills and earning capacity to no longer require it, and even the reason for the divorce.
Spousal support paid during the divorce proceedings can help you pay your bills while you pursue the equitable division of property that will formally and finally dissolve your marriage. If you are not getting the spousal support you need to make ends meet, a family law attorney at Montagna Law can help. Get in touch with us through our contact form or by calling 757-622-8100 to speak with a member of our legal team.
The question is not how long you have to be married to get spousal support; it is more about how long your spousal support can continue when the marriage ends. In general, under Virginia law, a dependent spouse can receive alimony for a defined duration lasting 50% of the duration of the marriage. Thus, if you have been married for 10 years, you can receive spousal support for up to five years.
If, however, the marriage lasted for longer than 20 years, Virginia code makes exceptions, and a court order can see spousal support payments lasting for much longer. Spouses must be prepared in this case for the support obligation to last for life. The Virginia court, however, is required to consider many factors before rendering a spousal support award.
A wide range of factors must be considered before a support order is issued in a Virginia divorce. Just a few of the factors that are considered are:
Courts can award different forms of marital support as well. Periodic payments can be made on a temporary basis for a specified length of time, or on a permanent basis. There may also be a lump sum payment.
Remarriage can have a huge effect on spousal support eligibility. In general, if the dependent spouse remarries, the responsibility to pay alimony usually ends for the payor, even if the original ruling was one for permanent alimony. This is considered an important material change in status.
In addition, a spouse can ask the court to reserve their right to support in the future, but such reserved rights only last for a specific period of time after the court approves the request. Again, generally, the duration of such a reservation is half the total length of the marriage.
The short answer to this question is yes, marital fault is considered when determining alimony orders in Virginia. In a fault divorce state, when a spouse alleges that their partner’s acts were the reason for the divorce, these actions can be considered. Virginia allows for both no-fault divorce and fault divorce.
The only grounds for a fault divorce in Virginia involve a period of separation where the couple no longer cohabitate for at least six months to one year, depending on whether children are involved. Fault-based divorce in Virginia includes adultery, sodomy, or buggery committed outside of the marriage, a conviction of a felony after marriage, willful abandonment or desertion for at least a year, or cruelty, which refers to abuse, violence, or fear of violence. In such cases where a spouse behaves in such a grossly immoral, negligent, or malicious manner, alimony may be awarded on a punitive basis to the injured spouse.
Alimony in Virginia falls into four primary categories:
Each has its own unique factors and is awarded in specific circumstances. Understanding what each means can be important as you pursue your spousal support agreement in your divorce case.
Temporary alimony can be ordered in one of two types: alimony during litigation — or pendente lite alimony — and rehabilitative alimony. During litigation, alimony is granted to cover the dependent spouse’s living expenses. It can be for a short time, or it can last until the divorce is finalized.
Rehabilitative alimony is financial support that is awarded for a limited time and is designed to let the dependent spouse adjust to their new circumstances and get established financially. In this case, alimony is designed to allow the dependent spouse to “rehabilitate” themselves and become self-supporting and truly independent.
Permanent alimony may not be for life but can be for an indefinite period. It is usually terminated by the death of one party, or by a significant change in the status of the dependent spouse, such as getting remarried or experiencing a major financial windfall such as a good job, lottery win, major inheritance, or the like. Major life changes can require going back to court to have alimony canceled.
Technical alimony refers to a payment structure that can be modified after the divorce is finalized. If the spousal support agreement states that any payments are dependent upon specific conditions, and the conditions warrant a change, the alimony amount can be adjusted or ended entirely. One or both spouses can petition the courts for such a change. In this sort of agreement, if one or both parties experience a financial downturn that affects the ability to pay, alimony payments can be reduced as well as increased.
Fixed alimony payments cannot be modified by the court, no matter what the circumstances might be. In this case, even if the dependent spouse wins a million dollars in a lottery, the alimony requirement continues unimpeded and unchanged.
Whether alimony is technical or fixed can be a major point of contention in divorce agreements. For most couples, a technical agreement, though it can be a headache at times, may be the best option as it allows not only for alimony to be ended if the dependent spouse no longer needs it but also for the dependent spouse to request higher payments if they experience a financial downturn.
Historically, alimony was considered income for the recipient, which meant they had to pay income tax on it. It then also became a tax deduction for the payor. Because of this, many spouses negotiated spousal support with the knowledge that they could benefit from favorable conditions when tax time came around. It made wealthier spouses much more willing to pay significant spousal support.
That is all changed under the new tax laws, which have made the tax consequences of spousal support minimal. The new tax code states that spousal support is no longer considered income. As such, it is not tax-deductible for the payor, nor does it affect the amount of tax you have to pay if you receive spousal support.
This can result in spouses that are less willing to pay up when it comes time to negotiate alimony agreements because they are losing a tax deduction. It has also led to more litigation and contention when it comes to spousal support awards.
Spouses are also no longer on equal footing in spousal support negotiations. Higher-earning spouses, for example, may actively seek litigation hoping that the lower-earning spouse simply cannot afford it, which leads to no award, or the acceptance of a lowball offer. The lower-earning or dependent spouse may fear the uncertainty of whether they will get a spousal support order from the courts.
Spouses can often get temporary alimony during the process to help them make ends meet, but you need help from a qualified family law and spousal support attorney to get what you deserve. Montagna Law is ready to stand up and protect your rights.
While it is true that unlike with child support there are fewer hard and fast guidelines for alimony, that does not mean you do not deserve the payments, and it does not mean you are not entitled to a certain standard of living. At Montagna Law, we are dedicated to fighting for the rights of spouses who are not getting what they deserve. Contact us today at 757-622-8100 or use our online contact form to speak with a member of our legal team today.
Family law can be complex, and a divorce can be stressful and contentious. It is rarely as simple as ending your cohabitation and agreeing on how things should be divided. It becomes vital to have someone in your corner who can provide legal advice and become an ally and friend, someone who values the client relationship, and someone who will stand up for your rights every step of the way.
You deserve to continue the standard of living to which you became accustomed during your marriage, and that is why alimony exists. You do not have to fight alone to get what you deserve. Contact a Virginia spousal support attorney at Montagna Law today so we can help you get your fair share.
*The consult fee is $50 for up to ½ hr phone consults and $100 for up to 1 hr in-person consults. These consult fees are then applied to the retainer if the client retains us within 30 days of the initial consult.