The court has the discretion to determine both the amount of spousal support and also the length of time that a party will receive spousal support. Because the court has so much discretion, it is important that both parties are well-represented in any case where spousal support is at issue.
When parties divorce, some spouses are eligible to receive spousal support, which is also known as alimony. These payments are usually a fixed amount of money paid on a monthly basis, although courts have the discretion to award support paid in other ways. Some spouses receive temporary support, also known as pendente lite support while an underlying divorce or other permanent support case is pending. The amount of support a party receives on a temporary basis can change at a final support hearing. The court has the discretion to determine not only the amount of spousal support but also the length of time that a party will receive spousal support. Some parties will receive spousal support for a finite period of time while others are awarded spousal support indefinitely. Parties are always free to agree upon an amount and duration of spousal support and also the circumstances when those amounts could change, and the agreement is typically incorporated into a court order. However, if parties are unable to agree, the court makes these determinations.
Va. Code 20-107.1 sets forth numerous factors the court must consider in awarding spousal support, including, but not limited to the following:
- Income of each Party for all sources
- Standard of Living established during the marriage
- Duration of the marriage
- Age, Physical, and Mental Condition of each Party
- Any special circumstances in the family, including any special circumstances of any children
- Each party’s contributions, both monetary and non-monetary, to the well-being of the family
- Property Interests of the parties
- How the Property is Divided in the Divorce
- Reasons for the Dissolution of the Marriage, including whether either party is guilty of any fault-based grounds for divorce
- Each party’s earning capacity
- Decisions made regarding Employment during the Marriage
- Whether either party helped the other in education, training, and career position
Unless the parties agree otherwise, spousal support is also modifiable upon a material change in circumstances and terminates upon either party’s death, the payee’s remarriage, or if the payee lives in a situation analogous to marriage for a period exceeding one (1) year. So, it is important to seek legal counsel whenever you believe that a spousal support modification may be appropriate.
Because the court has so much discretion, it is important that both parties are well-represented in any case where spousal support is at issue. Whether an agreement is negotiated in mediation, or the matter is presented to a court, our attorneys will provide you the advice you need to navigate any spousal support dispute.