Understanding how spousal support works is an important part of the divorce process.
Alimony and Spousal Support
In Virginia, courts refer to alimony as “spousal support.”
Spousal Support/Alimony for Cheating Spouses?
Before the Virginia General Assembly changed the spousal support laws in the Commonwealth in the last decade, courts did not award spousal support to a spouse guilty of dissolving the marriage. However, after the legislative changes, fault is no longer an absolute bar to spousal support. Thus, even if you can prove your spouse committed adultery, and that adultery was the reason for your divorce, your spouse may be able to receive an award for spousal support. However, a judge may consider any fault-based reasons for divorce when deciding whether to award spousal support to a “guilty” spouse.
In Virginia, courts do not award spousal support as a punitive measure. It is not proper for a court to require you to pay spousal support solely because you were responsible for your separation. For example, if you cheated on your spouse, a spousal support award is not proper just to punish you for committing adultery. Instead, a court should award spousal support to help your spouse achieve financial independence. If your spouse can prove she needs spousal support, and you can afford to support her, a spousal support award may be proper.
Virginia Law Regarding Spousal Support Awards
The Virginia Code sets forth several factors for courts to consider when considering whether spousal support is proper. Courts may consider several factors, including your relative financial earning capacity, your educational backgrounds, your earning history, your ages, your mental and physical health, your monetary and nonmonetary contributions to the marriage and your children’s needs.
Modifying Spousal Support
If you were ordered to pay spousal support and believe you should no longer have to pay your former spouse, you may be able to request a modification or termination. To modify a spousal support award, you must show changed circumstances of either party. Thus, if you can no longer pay because of your declining health, or your spouse now makes more money than you do, talk to your attorney about modifying it.
Are you facing a divorce and do not know where to begin? Keithley Law, PLLC and our Fairfax divorce attorneys can be your trusted guides. Backed by 40+ years of legal experience, we keep your best interests in focus from start to finish. For an initial consultation, call (703) 454-5147 now.