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How is Spousal Support Determined in Virginia?

The end of a marriage is often the end of a lifestyle. People are left to figure out what life will look like without not only the person they’ve been married to but also everything they brought to the table. Spousal support (often referred to as “maintenance”) is intended to soften this blow and ensure nobody is forced to suffer a significant loss in quality of life after their marriage ends.

Our team at Rinehart Bryant understands this isn’t everyone’s favorite topic, but the calculation of spousal support has to be addressed so you go into your divorce understanding what you will get out or put in financially. The calculation depends on what type of support the court orders which depends on a number of factors.

Factors in Determining Type and Duration of Spousal Support

There are numerous factors that go into determining what type of support will be paid out in a Virginia divorce. Virginia Code § 20-107.1 details these factors which include:

  • Circumstances that contributed to the dissolution of marriage (such as adultery or other grounds for divorce)
  • The obligations, needs, and resources of both parties
  • The standard of living established during the divorce
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age and health of both parties
  • Special circumstances of the family
  • The contributions each party will continue to make to the well-being of the family
  • The property interests of both parties
  • The earning capacity and skills, education, and training each party has to pursue employment
  • The time and cost necessary to acquire the appropriate skills to enter the job market
  • Employment, economic, education, and parenting decisions mutually agreed upon during the marriage
  • The amount either party has contributed to the education and betterment of the other party for the purposes of career development

Each of these factors will be considered by the court before ruling on the type of support you are owed or owe to your former spouse. If you had a short marriage where few financial and career decisions were made then spousal support may not be necessary or significant. If you had a long marriage where one spouse agreed to give up their career to take care of the family then significant and long-term spousal support may be necessary.

Types of Virginia Spousal Support

Once the court reviews the circumstances of each party, a decision will be made about the duration and type of spousal support. In making this decision, the court will consider:

  • Defined duration
  • Undefined or indefinite duration
  • Pendente Lite Spousal Support (or temporary)
  • Lump sum
  • A combination of the above

Under defined duration, the court will order payments to be made over a specific time period. This is often rehabilitative support made to give the recipient the opportunity to get on their feet and support themselves.

For undefined or indefinite duration, payments will be made not until a specific date but often until a specific event. This can include a lifetime in very rare cases but may also be until the recipient remarries or when the court reconvenes and decides the support is no longer necessary. Long-term marriages will often receive an undefined period of support.

Pendente Lite Spousal Support (or temporary) support is generally only issued for the duration of the divorce case. This allows the recipient to pay for necessities until other assets are split and the divorce is finalized. There is a specific formula under Virginia Code § 16.1-278.17:1 used by the court to determine this amount. However, this formula will not be used if the combined monthly income of the two spouses exceeds $10,000. The court could order payments higher or lower than the formula determines in those cases depending on expenses and the ability to pay.

A lump sum payment is an amount paid at a set amount determined by the court. This could be paid out in one payment or in multiple payments until the total amount has been paid to the recipient.

Is the Final Decision Modifiable?

Once the circuit court holds a final hearing and renders a decision, the spousal support must be issued as modifiable. This means material changes in circumstances may come into play after the support is ordered.

Remarriage, death, or a change in career or family status are all common factors that could lead to the modification. Even defined duration and lump sum spousal support can be modified.

Is Virginia Spousal Support Taxable as Income?

This is something we touched on previously, but no, Virginia spousal support is not taxable as income. The payments are being made out of already-taxed income from the other spouse which means you won’t be taxed again on the same money.

At Rinehart Bryant, we have experience navigating every step of the divorce process. We can help you secure spousal support when necessary and also help you avoid paying spousal support when you shouldn’t be expected to. Our compassion for Virginia families drives us to support our clients each and every day. Contact your Virginia family law firm today.

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