Alimony – also known as spousal support – can be a point of contention in any Virginia divorce. One spouse who has sacrificed earning potential to care for the family home or raise children may need help preparing to support themselves in a very competitive economy once they are maintaining a separate household.
The spouse who is paying support may feel like it is a burden, which often leads to intense disagreement about whether spousal support is necessary, how much it should amount to and how long it should last. Understanding the rules that Virginia applies to spousal support determination can help those who are trying to build a claim for spousal support or respond to a claim by their spouse.
There is no clear answer about spousal support in a Virginia divorce
The courts must look at a variety of factors to determine if support is necessary and how much it should be. There are at least some clear rules regarding the duration of spousal support. Most spousal support is rehabilitative in nature. The goal is to help someone become competitive on the modern job market. Rehabilitative support only lasts for a set amount of time to help someone gain job experience or education so that they can earn enough to support themselves. State statutes impose a rebuttable presumption that the payments will last for half as long as the marriage lasted before formal separation.
In unusual circumstances, including very long marriages that end late in life and divorces involving someone leaving a spouse with a debilitating medical condition acquired during a marriage, indefinite payments may be possible. However, such arrangements are rare. Regardless of the order’s duration, the payments can also end when the recipient dies or when they remarried.
Spouses can settle support conflicts
It is not inherently necessary to have a judge set support terms in a Virginia divorce. Spouses have the option of working cooperatively to set terms together that they agree would be appropriate. Although it can be an emotional and high-conflict topic, lawyers may be able to successfully read an agreement so that the support terms are reasonable for both spouses.
Seeking legal guidance to better understand how long alimony or spousal support will last can help those who are expecting to pay it and those who are dependent on receiving this crucial form of support.