Spousal support, which used to be termed “alimony,” can often be the most contentious part of a marital separation or divorce. This issue can also be complex, typically in cases where other financial factors can affect the outcome, such as the distribution of marital assets and child support. You and your spouse can agree outside of court on whether spousal support will be provided and how much. However, where you do not agree, it may become an issue for litigation.
Because we have concentrated our firm’s practice on divorce, Butler Moss O'Neal, PLC has a wealth of experience, resources, and skills to apply to your spousal support case. We can help you negotiate a fair settlement on this matter outside of court, allowing you to remain in control of this issue. Our team of attorneys can also take the matter before the court in litigation. We represent individuals seeking as well as contesting spousal support. We can also help with modifications or termination of this support which must be approved by the court.
Spousal support can be resolved through out-of-court negotiations between you and your spouse as an option to in-court litigation. This issue may also have been pre-arranged through a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that can be presented to the court in the divorce process. These agreements often outline whether spousal support will be provided and, if so, its amount and duration.
If spousal support is litigated, the court enjoys wide latitude in setting the amount and duration. The court is required to consider certain “factors” under Virginia spousal support statutes, but the decision ultimately comes down to the Judge’s concept of what is “fair” and “equitable.”
The factors that the Court considers include:
- The duration of the marriage
- The age and health of both parties
- The monetary and non-monetary contributions of each party to the well-being of the family
- Each party’s obligations, needs, and resources
- Each party’s income and income-earning potential
- The division of property in the divorce
- The factors that led to the marital dissolution, including “fault” grounds, among others
Spousal support can not only be an issue during a divorce but may arise long after the divorce has been finalized. If your circumstances have materially and substantially changed since the original support order was issued, you may seek a modification through the court. Examples of these changes can be a job loss or other financial losses, such as through a business or investments or due to a serious injury or illness that removes you from the workforce.
Spousal support generally terminates when the supported spouse remarries or one of the parties passes away. You may also seek termination of spousal support if your ex-spouse has been in a romantic cohabitation with someone else for more than a year. You must provide the court with proof of this which would end spousal support obligations.
Litigation of spousal support entails risks for both parties. Likewise, in negotiation, the attorneys representing the parties may have widely differing opinions on what they believe to be “fair” or “equitable” considering their varied experiences in litigating this complicated issue. Either way, your best interests will be optimally served with a legal professional on your side.
Whether you intend to litigate or negotiate spousal support, we at Butler Moss O'Neal, PLC stand ready to guide you through this complex and often contentious process. Our team can help you reach a result that is fair to you, and which considers all the facts, circumstances, and legal authority that apply to your very individual case.
They made going through a divorce as pleasant as can be... they kept me laughing when I felt like crying.- L.F.
My spouse has threatened to cancel my health insurance. Can the court order that coverage to continue?
Yes. The Court has the authority to order that one spouse maintain his/her existing health insurance to the other during the pendency of a divorce or spousal support proceeding.
I am paying spousal support but I want to retire. Can my spousal support payment be adjusted?It depends. If you have a written agreement that has been incorporated into a final order of divorce, the support can only be modified as provided in that agreement. If the Court adjudicated your support obligation in a contested trial, the Court has the authority to modify the support obligation if either party is able to demonstrate a “material change of circumstances” which warrants it.
How is spousal support calculated?Only temporary spousal support may be calculated according to a formula, which may be one of a few different variations that take certain percentages of each party’s incomes and subtract them to yield the support figure. For spousal support that is to be determined in a final adjudication, the Court is required to consider the evidence relating to a number of “factors” under the statute, and exercises its discretion in setting the duration and amount. Spousal support is a very complex area of domestic relations law, and your attorney can discuss with you how the statutory factors apply to the facts of your case.
My spouse just moved out and says the mortgage and bills are my responsibility. Can the court issue an order to make him/her conYes. The Court in a divorce or spousal support proceeding can issue a temporary support order requiring one spouse to pay the other a sum of money to help cover these expenses. This is called a “pendente lite” order.