Virginia Spousal Support (Alimony) FAQs
How is spousal support determined?
Spousal support can be determined by the parties through a settlement agreement, or a judge can determine the amount of spousal support to be paid, if any, if a case goes to trial.
Can I receive spousal support prior to a final settlement or court date in my case?
Yes. Virginia permits pendente lite spousal support to be awarded. Pendente lite spousal support is a temporary support amount that will be effective until a final disposition in the case. The parties can jointly agree to an appropriate amount, or the court can make that determination based on the respective incomes of the parties. If you cannot agree to an amount of pendente lite spousal support, each spouse will be required to prepare a monthly income and expenses statement, which reflects their monthly income and expenses. The court will then make an award of spousal support, if appropriate, based on the demonstrated need of one spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay support to meet that need on a temporary basis. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts use a formula for pendente lite support in cases where the parties’ combined gross incomes do not exceed $120,000 per year.
Can spousal support ever be barred?
Spousal support may be barred by proof of adultery on the part of the person seeking spousal support; however, spousal support is no longer barred by desertion or cruelty.
What are the factors that go into a spousal support determination?
The factors taken into consideration by the court when deciding whether to award spousal support and the amount of such award include:
- The earning capacity, obligations, needs and financial resources of the parties, including but not limited to income from all pension, profit-sharing or retirement plans, of whatever nature
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The age and physical and mental condition of the parties and any special circumstances of the family
- The extent to which the age, physical or mental condition or special circumstances of any child of the parties would make it appropriate that a party not seek employment outside of the home
- The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family
- The property interest of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible
- The provisions made with regard to the marital property under § 20-107.3
- The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity
- The opportunity for, ability of, and the time and costs involved for a party to acquire the appropriate education, training and employment to obtain the skills needed to enhance his or her earning ability
- The decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education and parenting arrangements made by the parties during the marriage and their effect on present and future earning potential, including the length of time one or both of the parties have been absent from the job market
- The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party and
- Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party and the circumstances and factors that contributed to the dissolution, specifically including any ground for divorce, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.
Can I get permanent spousal support?
Spousal support, whether ordered by the court or agreed to by the parties, can be paid in periodic (i.e., bi-weekly or monthly) payments for a set duration, such as four years; periodic payments for an unspecified duration; in the form of a lump sum award; or any combination of the above. Court-ordered spousal support terminates automatically upon the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the spouse receiving support. A spouse is more likely to receive an award of spousal support with no defined duration, where spousal support will continue until death of either party or remarriage, if there was a long-term marriage and the spouse seeking support is nearing or at retirement age, or unable to become sufficiently employed to provide their own support. In shorter marriages, where the spouse seeking support is younger, the court may award spousal support of a limited duration, sometimes referred to as “rehabilitative alimony,” to allow the recipient spouse the time and opportunity to complete a degree or carry out some plan aimed at securing self-sufficiency. At the time of the divorce, in addition to awarding spousal support, or in cases where spousal support is not warranted at the time, the court may grant either or both spouses a reservation to request spousal support in the future.
How can the amount of spousal support be changed in the future?
If support is awarded by the Court or unless an Agreement states specifically that spousal support is not modifiable, then either side may later petition for an increase/decrease upon a showing of substantially changed circumstances. Further, a payor spouse is permitted to petition the court for termination of spousal support in cases where the recipient spouse has cohabited with another person in a relationship analogous to marriage for a year or more. In the event the recipient spouse remarries, spousal support terminates by operation of law.
How do I enforce a support order?
If you are worried that your spouse will not pay a support order, or if your spouse is refusing to pay a valid support order, Virginia law allows for an income deduction order to be entered by the court. A Virginia court has the power to order that the spouse’s employer deduct the appropriate monthly amount due from the employee’s pay check and to pay that amount to the spouse entitled to receive the support.
Who pays taxes on spousal support, the payor spouse or the payee spouse?
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, spousal support awarded on January 1, 2019 and thereafter is no longer taxable to the recipient as income or deductible by the payor. Awards made prior to January 1, 2019 remain taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor.