Divorce is often an overwhelming and confusing process. On top of emotional upheaval, those going through divorce frequently face financial uncertainty.
In addition to dividing marital property and child support, Virginia law provides for payment of alimony, referred to today as spousal support or spousal maintenance. Spousal support is intended to provide reasonable and necessary financial support if needed by either spouse. Either a man or woman can pay or receive spousal support.
A common case in which a court is likely to award spousal support involves one spouse foregoing educational or career opportunities to raise children. Under these circumstances, the spouse likely has diminished earning capacity while the other spouse enjoyed opportunities for career advancement and increased earnings.
In such cases, courts may find it reasonable and necessary to award spousal support.
Factors courts consider
A number of factors go into a court’s decision about whether to award spousal support, how much spousal support to award and how long to require payment of spousal support. For example, courts may consider:
- The ability of each party to support themselves
- Time needed for job training to allow a spouse to support themselves
- The standard of living during the marriage
- Any special contributions by one spouse to the other’s education or career
- Length of the marriage and each party’s age
- Either spouse’s ability to afford paying spousal support
- Whether either party received a disproportionate share of marital property
In the end, a court will award spousal support based on a judge’s determination of whether financial support is reasonable and necessary for either spouse. An experienced attorney is critical to ensure the court understands a party’s circumstances and is able to fairly decide if spousal support is reasonable and necessary.