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Virginia Divorce FAQ's - Alimony

This is about alimony after divorce in Virginia, including when courts order alimony, how the amount of alimony is set in Virginia, and how and when Virginia courts stop alimony once it's awarded.

This information is from Wayne E. Comer, the Divorcinfo Network Lawyer for Virginia. You can click here to visit his web site.

When does alimony get paid?

If there is a property/financial agreement formally executed, alimony (spousal support) is payable on whatever terms are set forth. When set by court decree, it may be either (A) a lump sum, usually payable during the first full month following the entry of decree, or (B) first monthly installment on the first of the month following the month of decree. Code of Va. §§ 16.1-241. Jurisdiction. (Partial test) The judges of the juvenile and domestic relations district court elected or appointed under this law shall be conservators of the peace within the corporate limits of the cities and the boundaries of the counties for which they are respectively chosen and within one mile beyond the limits of such cities and counties. L. Any person who seeks spousal support after having separated from his spouse. A decision under this subdivision shall not be res judicata in any subsequent action for spousal support in a circuit court. A circuit court shall have concurrent original jurisdiction in all causes of action under this subdivision.

How does the court decide how much?

§§ 20-107.1. Court may decree as to maintenance and support of spouses. 

A. Pursuant to any proceeding arising under subsection L of §§ 16.1-241 or upon the entry of a decree providing (i) for the dissolution of a marriage, (ii) for a divorce, whether from the bond of matrimony or from bed and board, (iii) that neither party is entitled to a divorce, or (iv) for separate maintenance, the court may make such further decree as it shall deem expedient concerning the maintenance and support of the spouses. However, the court shall have no authority to decree maintenance and support payable by the estate of a deceased spouse.

B. Any maintenance and support shall be subject to the provisions of §§ 20-109, and no permanent maintenance and support shall be awarded from a spouse if there exists in such spouse's favor a ground of divorce under the provisions of subdivision (1) of §§ 20-91. However, the court may make such an award notwithstanding the existence of such ground if the court determines from clear and convincing evidence, that a denial of support and maintenance would constitute a manifest injustice, based upon the respective degrees of fault during the marriage and the relative economic circumstances of the parties.

C. The court, in its discretion, may decree that maintenance and support of a spouse be made in periodic payments for a defined duration, or in periodic payments for an undefined duration, or in a lump sum award, or in any combination thereof.

D. In addition to or in lieu of an award pursuant to subsection C, the court may reserve the right of a party to receive support in the future. In any case in which the right to support is so reserved, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the reservation will continue for a period equal to fifty percent of the length of time between the date of the marriage and the date of separation. Once granted, the duration of such a reservation shall not be subject to modification.

E. The court, in determining whether to award support and maintenance for a spouse, shall consider the circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including adultery and any other ground for divorce under the provisions of subdivision (3) or (6) of §§ 20-91 or §§ 20-95. In determining the nature, amount and duration of an award pursuant to this section, the court shall consider the following1. The 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; 2. The standard of living established during the marriage; 3. The duration of the marriage; 4. The age and physical and mental condition of the parties and any special circumstances of the family; 5. 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; 6. The contributions, monetary and non monetary, of each party to the well-being of the family; 7. The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible; 8. The provisions made with regard to the marital property under §§ 20-107.3; 9. The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity; 10. 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; 11. 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; 12. The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party; and 13. Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.

Opinion: There has been a rough rule of thumb among Virginia divorce lawyers that the successful petitioner is likely to be granted a monthly support sum which will allow him or her to continue approximately the level of life style to which they had become accustomed in the marriage, usually not exceeding one-third of the husband's monthly net income.

What does it take to change alimony?

See the foregoing answer in the question about changing the amount of child support. But note that where the spousal support (alimony) is set by a formal contract between the parties and where that sum is not specifically made the subject of the divorce or a support decree, it may not be altered or modified except under the prevailing rules of contract law.

When does alimony stop?

Where it is fixed by contract, whenever the contract specified that it will terminate. Where fixed by decree, upon the death or remarriage of the payee or where the payee enters into a "common law" marriage situation.

Other issues in Virginia:

Stop the Divorce! | How much child support?
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