Coates & Davenport, P.C.

What types of spousal support may be awarded in Virginia?

Sometimes, a married couple decides that one spouse will stay at home to care for the family, while the other spouse pursues a career. The working spouse is able to "climb the corporate ladder" and ultimately sees career success that leaves the couple well off financially.

However, it is not unusual for a married couple to eventually divorce. If a spouse stayed out of the workforce and is now facing a high-asset divorce, their financial future may seem uncertain. In situations like this, the higher-earning spouse may be ordered to pay spousal support -- to the lesser-earning spouse. The amount of spousal support owed will be set by the court, and will be based in part on the lesser-earning spouse's need for financial support, the higher-earning spouse's ability to pay alimony and the lifestyle the couple had while married.  Spousal support is not meant to be punitive.

There are different kinds of spousal support in Virginia. The higher-earning spouse is ordered to make regular payments, for example, monthly payments, to the lesser-earning spouse for an undefined period of time. This type of spousal support is also referred to as "permanent spousal support," although it will end once a spouse dies, or if the receiving spouse remarries.

The higher-earning spouse is ordered to make regular payments to the lesser-earning spouse for a defined period of time. This is also known as "rehabilitative spousal support." While this allows for periodic payments to be made, they will only be made for a certain duration. It is meant to give the receiving spouse the time needed to become self-supporting.

And, spousal support can be paid as a lump sum. In a lump-sum award, the total amount of spousal support awarded is set. It will either be paid in one single payment, or it may be paid in installments.

In the end, it is important that an award of spousal support is fair and appropriate, given the unique circumstances and factors in the case. It should allow the receiving spouse to live comfortably, without financially draining the paying spouse. Because this is a fine line to balance, it is important for divorcing spouses to have a good understanding of how spousal support will apply to their case, so they can make informed decisions moving forward. 

The Virginia Code contains factors that judges are required to consider in making spousal support decisions.  It is important to consult with and hire an attorney experienced with spousal support issues to assist you through the process.

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