If you are considering divorce or have already filed or been served with divorce papers, spousal support might be part of your divorce case. You should know how courts in Virginia calculate the amount of spousal support and the duration of a support award.
What Factors Do Courts Use to Calculate Spousal Support?
Virginia law sets out the factors that courts use to calculate spousal support in a divorce case. These factors include:
- The financial resources and obligations of the parties, including income from pensions, retirement plans, or profit-sharing arrangements
- The assets owned or held by each party
- The earning capacity of each party based on their skills, education, training, and current employment opportunities
- The opportunity and ability of each party to acquire education, training, or skills to enhance their earning ability, and the time and cost involved
- The standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The ages and physical and mental conditions of the parties, including any special circumstances of the family
- Whether the age or physical/mental condition or special needs of any child of the parties prevents either party from seeking employment outside the home
- The contributions, financial or otherwise, of each party to the family’s well-being
- The equitable distribution of the marital estate
- Each party’s decisions regarding career, employment, and education and the effect of those decisions on each party’s present and future earning capacity, including the length of time either party has been out of the job market
- Each party’s contribution to the other’s advancement of their education and career
The court may also consider any other factor relevant to the balance of equities between the parties, including tax consequences of equitable distribution or spousal support or the extent to which either party contributed to the dissolution of the marriage. For example, adultery by one spouse may render that spouse ineligible to seek spousal support in a divorce.
How Does Voluntary Underemployment or Unemployment Affect Spousal Support?
The spousal support statute allows courts to consider each party’s earning capacity rather than simply the income they actually earn. This allows courts to impute higher income to a spouse or to impute income to a spouse who does not work if they find that the spouse had voluntarily underemployed or unemployed themselves. Voluntary unemployment or underemployment means that a spouse has made a conscious decision to not work or to accept employment that pays less than the spouse could earn in another job they are qualified for. A finding of voluntary unemployment or underemployment by a recipient spouse can reduce their support award. For a payor spouse in underemployment or unemployment conditions, the court may increase the spouse’s support obligation even if it would be harder for them to pay that award on their current income.
How Long Does Spousal Support Last in Virginia?
The statutory factors also govern how long a spousal support award will last. Courts have the option of awarding indefinite support or a limited duration support award. When courts choose to award limited duration support, they are required to identify the specific factors that warrant limiting the duration of spousal support. These factors may include the time it will take for a spouse to complete education or training and reenter the workforce to earn an income sufficient for that spouse to enjoy a lifestyle comparable to the marital lifestyle or to their spouse’s lifestyle.
Contact a Divorce Lawyer from Our Firm for Help with Your Spousal Support Case
If you are seeking spousal support in your divorce or if your spouse has requested an award of support, contact Invictus Law today by calling 757-330-8455 for a confidential consultation. You can speak with our Virginia divorce lawyers about your rights under the law.