In Virginia, Court orders for spousal support (also referred to in some states as “alimony”) are typically based on the Court’s consideration of certain statutory factors, most importantly, the needs of one party and the ability of the other to pay. You and your spouse can resolve a spousal support issue outside of court, by mutual written agreement, or the Court can determine the issue for you.
If your spousal support case goes to trial, a judge must consider more than a dozen factors, including the obligations, needs, and financial resources of each spouse; the length of the marriage; the contributions each spouse has made to the marriage and well-being of the family; the factors which lead to the break-down of the marriage; and often most importantly, the decisions made by the couple regarding employment, career, and parenting arrangements, and their effect on present and future earning potential. This includes the length of time a spouse has been absent from the job market. If there is no evidence of adultery (a potential bar in Virginia to any award of spousal support) by the spouse seeking support, the Court has a reasonable degree of discretion in making the award. The Court can order that the spousal support payments be made for a fixed or indefinite period of time.
There have been several recent changes in the federal tax code which affect spousal support, making it imperative to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can discuss with you the implications of these new laws. The major change is this: in the past, spousal support payments were for federal income tax purposes, deductible by the paying party, and income to the recipient. Effective January 1, 2019, for all new court orders issued after that date, and for all marital settlement agreements effective after that date, spousal support payments are no longer deductible by the payor or income to the recipient. This significant change in federal tax law means that prior assumptions regarding the after-tax cost of spousal support have changed.
Our law office also handles cases involving the modification of spousal support. In Virginia, a party paying spousal support may be able to seek a modification of their obligation, and in order to do so, they must first establish that there has been a material change in their financial circumstances, or in the financial circumstances of their former spouse, which justify a modification of spousal support. The Court may, but is not required to, consider the spousal support factors in deciding whether or not to grant the petition to modify. All spousal support awards determined by the Court are eligible for modification.
Spousal support may be for an indefinite or definite period of time. When support is for a defined period of time, it will end once a certain event occurs. It is rare, but not unheard of, for the parties to agree on a lump sum award of spousal support, or for the Court to order this following a trial. Spousal support typically terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the support recipient. The Court may terminate spousal support due to the cohabitation of the party receiving support, for a period of one year or more, in a relationship analogous to a marriage. This is a very technical area of the law, requiring consultation with an experienced family law attorney.
At Wexell Milman, our emphasis is on divorce and family law related issues. We have a wealth of experience in handling the issue of spousal support, both in pursuing and defending claims for spousal support & modification of spousal support. The family lawyers at Wexell Milman achieve negotiated or mediated results in many divorce cases, but are equally comfortable litigating these matters in Court. Our family law attorneys represent clients in both pendente lite (temporary) and final support hearings, whether you are the party seeking spousal support or defending a spousal support claim.
The divorce lawyers at Wexell Milman handle all aspects of divorce and family law, including spousal support payments and modification of spousal support, for clients throughout Fairfax County and the surrounding areas of Northern Virginia. To make arrangements for an initial consultation, call our family law office directly at 703-385-3858, or contact us online.