Divorce often involves several issues that must be resolved before the marriage is officially terminated. One topic that tends to become highly contested is spousal support – also known as alimony. In many cases, a party cannot financially support themself without the other’s income.
If you’re considering a divorce in Fairfax, VA, an attorney can negotiate on your behalf and attempt to work out your alimony dispute. However, your choice of legal representation can make all the difference in ensuring that you and your spouse reach an equitable outcome.
At The Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury, PLC, we have dedicated our careers to helping people navigate family law matters. Our compassionate Fairfax spousal support lawyers understand the emotional toll that divorce can take. That’s why we aim to provide each client with customized services and maintain clear, consistent communication.
How Can The Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury, PLC Help Me Seek Spousal Support in My Fairfax Divorce Case?
Our Fairfax spousal support attorneys know Virginia family laws inside and out. We’ve helped countless people and their families secure the outcome they deserve after a divorce.
We know you may be unsure of your rights and what you may be entitled to by law. We strive to thoroughly explain the steps in the divorce process so that you know what to expect moving forward. You’ll never be in the dark when you work with our experienced and compassionate legal team.
If you hire our attorneys for help with your divorce in Fairfax, Virginia, we’ll:
- Provide you with dedicated and honest legal guidance and advice throughout your case
- Determine whether you qualify for spousal support under VA law
- Seek financial disclosures and information from your spouse
- Prepare all filings and help you negotiate a fair settlement agreement that addresses all issues between you and your spouse
Contact our Fairfax family lawyers for the legal representation needed to obtain the best possible outcome for your spousal support and divorce case.
What Is Spousal Support?
Many issues must be addressed when couples go through a divorce. One consideration is spousal support, often referred to as alimony.
Under Virginia law, family court judges can order a party to provide for the maintenance and support of their spouse. The goal is to ensure that both parties maintain the same standard of living as during the marriage and can meet their financial obligations.
For example, a spouse may have depended on the other to provide for the household financially, such as if they stayed home to raise children. Alternatively, one spouse may earn significantly less than the other, putting them at a distinct disadvantage when the marriage ends.
In each of these examples, the non-earning or lesser-earning spouse may need payments from the other party to make ends meet. That’s where spousal support comes in.
The parties may reach an agreement regarding alimony. If they cannot agree, it is a contested issue that will be decided by a family court judge.
What Types of Spousal Support Can Be Awarded in a Fairfax Divorce Case, and How Long Does It Last?
For a judge to award alimony, the party requiring financial support must request it during the divorce. Either person can make the request, but they must prove that they need it for a court to grant it.
The court may award spousal support while the divorce case is pending. The party asking for alimony can request a pendente lite hearing, where a judge will make a ruling regarding temporary spousal support. If the judge awards alimony, a temporary order will be in place until a final decree of divorce is issued.
A judge may also order post-divorce spousal support, which falls into two main categories:
- Rehabilitative support: This is typically a limited-duration award that allows the receiving spouse to become self-supporting. For example, they may need time to finish their education or training to return to work.
- Permanent alimony: For long-term marriages or cases involving a retired, disabled, or ill spouse, a court may award alimony for no defined duration.
Spousal support may be ordered as periodic payments, such as once per month, or in a lump sum.
For rehabilitative alimony, the judge typically provides an end date for payments to cease. Alternatively, they may say that spousal support will end once the receiving party completes a degree or obtains suitable employment.
Regardless of whether permanent or temporary alimony is awarded, the payment obligation terminates if the receiving party remarries or either person dies.
What Factors Will a Judge Consider When Determining Whether To Award Spousal Support in Virginia?
Virginia judges consider various factors when deciding whether to order a spouse to pay alimony, including:
- The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
- Each party’s financial resources, needs, and obligations
- The length of the marriage
- Each party’s earning capacity and employment opportunities, considering their education, skills, and training
- The ability, cost, and time needed for a party to improve their earning potential, such as through education or training
- Each party’s age, health, and mental condition
- Whether either party has to stay home to raise a child, making them unable to seek employment
- Each party’s contributions to the family’s well-being
- Each party’s real and personal property interests
- The division of marital property between the parties, including assets and debts
- The parenting and other arrangements made by the parties during the marriage and time either spouse was away from the job market
- Whether either party helped the other attain an education or career
- Any tax consequences
Courts may also consider any other relevant circumstances, including what led to the dissolution of the marriage. For example, if the divorce is fault-based, such as if one spouse committed adultery or willfully deserted the other, a judge can consider that fact.
The amount a judge awards in alimony is based on their discretion. It’s typically best for the parties to reach an agreement and present it to the judge for approval.
What If Someone Fails to Pay Court-Ordered Spousal Support in Fairfax, VA?
The dependent party can notify the court of the party’s failure to comply with the terms of the order. The court has jurisdiction to enforce the spousal support order. There are various ways they might do this.
The non-paying spouse can be held in contempt of court, leading to fines and other penalties until the arrearages are paid.
The judge may also order the payor spouse’s employer to deduct the past due spousal support from their paycheck. In that case, an income deduction order will be sent to them and their employer, notifying them of the wage garnishment.
Depending on the circumstances, other potential options for enforcement may be available, such as a property lien. It’s best to contact an experienced Fairfax family attorney to evaluate your situation.
Can I Modify the Terms of My Spousal Support Agreement in Fairfax, Virginia?
The parties can voluntarily agree to modify the terms of an alimony agreement. Alternatively, if they cannot agree, either party can seek a modification by proving a substantial change in circumstances to the court.
The party requesting the modification must petition the court for a decrease, increase, or termination of spousal support. They must explain the reason for modifying the payments.
For example, the person receiving support may have been living with someone and maintaining a relationship similar to a marriage for more than one year. The paying party can request that the alimony payments terminate.
Or, a material change in a party’s circumstances may justify an increase or decrease in support payments. For example, the payor may have unexpectedly lost their job and have been unable to find new employment, causing significant financial hardship. Or, they may be approaching retirement age.
The court will consider the same factors as they did when awarding the spousal support. They will also evaluate each party’s assets acquired between when support was ordered and the date of the hearing on modification or termination.
Note that if the settlement agreement stipulates that spousal support is non-modifiable, the court cannot modify or change its terms. The parties would need to renegotiate or voluntarily agree to a modification.
Contact Our Fairfax Spousal Support Attorneys for a Confidential Consultation
If you need help with a spousal support matter in Fairfax, VA, contact The Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury, PLC for legal assistance. Our attorneys will answer your questions and explain your options.
Contact our Fairfax family law attorneys for a case evaluation to learn more.