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The basic rules of spousal support in a Virginia divorce

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2023 | Divorce, Spousal Support |

When a Virginia couple decides to end their marriage, one of the first questions each spouse asks is, “Can the court order alimony?” The answer to this question can be frustrating, but the correct answer is, “It depends.”

The answer depends upon many factors which will be reviewed in this post.

The basic rule

Virginia law permits an award of alimony (also known as spousal support) only if the support is necessary to maintain the recipient’s well-being after the divorce.

In resolving the issue of spousal support, the court will first determine whether either spouse has committed adultery. If the court finds that one spouse committed adultery, that spouse will be conclusively ineligible to receive spousal support.

Determining the amount of support

Having determined the initial question of eligibility, the court next looks at the factors that determine the amount and duration of support. These factors include each party’s income, their needs, the standard of living during the marriage and more.

The application of these factors to any given marriage cannot be easily predicted. For example, a judge is more likely to order an award of spousal support if a marriage has lasted for a relatively long time, say more than 10 years.

If the couple enjoyed a comfortable standard of living while married, the court will most likely order one spouse to pay support to the other spouse to help in maintaining that standard of living. Also, proof of domestic violence during the marriage will automatically disqualify the abusive spouse from receiving support.

The amount of support

The amount of support will depend upon the financial condition of and future income potential of each spouse. A spouse capable of earning a higher income will probably be ordered to pay support to the other spouse.

The duration of support

Payment of support can be ordered for a definite period, usually measured in years, or for an unspecified duration. The death of either spouse will terminate the support obligation. Also, if the recipient spouse elects to cohabitate with another person in a situation that resembles a marriage, the support obligation will terminate.


Circumstances change all the time. Sometimes, even the most well-crafted spousal support order can be rendered inadequate by a change in one party’s income or needs. When this happens, one party may need help requesting a modification to a spousal support order.

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