Afsana Chowdhury | September 15, 2023 | Divorce
There is no difference between alimony vs. spousal support in Virginia. Both terms refer to financial assistance paid by one spouse to another spouse during a divorce action and after the divorce is granted. Many states still use the term alimony, but Virginia and other states have transitioned to using the term spousal support.
Why do States Use the Term Spousal Support Instead of Alimony?
Alimony is the traditional term used to describe financial support paid between spouses. However, the term alimony has many negative aspects.
For example, alimony is often associated with a man “supporting” their ex-wife after a divorce. Additionally, the term alimony can be confrontational for many people.
Spousal support is generally neutral. Support has traditionally been paid by men. However, that is changing. More and more women are paying support to their ex-husbands.
Therefore, spousal support is a much better term to describe financial support paid between parties after a divorce.
How Is Spousal Support Determined in Fairfax, Virginia?
Spousal support is not guaranteed. The law permits courts to award support payments. However, a judge must determine that a person is eligible to receive alimony before granting spousal support.
First, judges consider the circumstances and factors that led to the breakup of the marriage. The Code of Virginia Domestic Relations §20-107.1 gives the court the right to make decisions regarding the maintenance and support of the spouses. However, the court must consider the grounds for the divorce.
The law provides that no permanent maintenance and support should be awarded if a spouse committed fault grounds for a divorce. Fault grounds include, but are not limited to, adultery, cruelty, and desertion.
Yet, the law also allows a judge to grant spousal support notwithstanding the grounds for the divorce if the judge determines that a denial of support would constitute a manifest injustice. The judge must find that denying a spouse alimony would be unjust by clear and convincing evidence.
Factors Judges Consider to Award Spousal Support in Virginia
If a judge finds that a spouse is eligible to receive support payments, the judge must then consider the factors outlined in the code to determine the duration and amount of spousal support to be paid. Those factors are:
- The financial needs, resources, and obligations of both spouses;
- The mental and physical health of the spouses, their ages, and any special family circumstances;
- The duration of the marriage;
- A spouse’s contributions to the family’s well-being, including financial contributions and non-monetary contributions;
- The standard of living the spouses enjoyed during the marriage;
- The final division of marital property;
- A spouse’s interest in personal, real, intangible, and intangible property
- Whether a child’s age, mental condition, physical condition, or special circumstances require a parent to stay at home instead of working outside the home;
- The extent to which a spouse contributed to the education, training, career, or profession of the other spouse;
- Each spouse’s earning potential, including their present education, training, skills, and employment opportunities;
- The ability, time, and costs of a spouse to acquire the necessary education, training, and employment to improve their earning potential; and,
- The decisions each spouse made during the marriage about parenting, careers, economics, education, and employment and how the decisions impacted the spouse’s earning potential now.
A judge may also consider other factors that a judge considers relevant to determine issues regarding spousal support, including the grounds for the divorce and tax consequences for each spouse.
The Different Types of Spousal Support in Virginia
When a judge grants spousal support, the judge must decide how long a spouse must pay support. Virginia courts generally award one of three types of spousal support:
- Temporary Spousal Support – Temporary alimony is granted during a divorce case to provide financial support while the judge considers the evidence and makes a final decision regarding support.
- Rehabilitative Spousal Support – Rehabilitative alimony is paid for a specific number of months or years. The purpose is to give a spouse the time to acquire the necessary skills to earn a sufficient level of income to support themselves.
- Permanent Spousal Support – Permanent alimony is typically granted only in long-term marriages. The support payments continue until the spouse gets married, cohabits with another person, or is terminated by the court.
An experienced Fairfax divorce lawyer helps you evaluate your legal options. Your attorney works to ensure that spousal support awards are fair and just.
Contact The Divorce Law Firm of Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury, PLC in Fairfax, VA.
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