Virginia does not have rigid guidelines for spousal support the way it does for child support. The laws are written to provide a judge wide discretion in deciding, first, who pays whom and, second, how much is paid.
Spousal Support Laws
The Code of Virginia includes a section, § 20-107.1, that outlines how a Circuit Court judge may decide spousal support. A judge must go beyond asking, “Who earns more?” to determine which spouse gets support, and how much the spouse gets.
Consider this passage:
The court, in determining whether to award support and maintenance for a spouse, shall consider the circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including adultery and any other ground for divorce
If your wife committed adultery, she may immediately disqualify herself from spousal support. Likewise with other fault grounds, such as cruelty, conviction for a felony, and desertion.
Her disqualification for spousal support, though, does not automatically swing the decision back to your favor. Though she may be disqualified from getting spousal support from you, you are not then automatically entitled to it from her.
Proving Your Need for Spousal Support
You can prove to the court’s satisfaction that you deserve and need spousal support using the same guidelines that prevent your wife from getting it. Under § 20-107.1, among the 13 factors to be considered include these five:
- The obligations, needs and financial resources of the parties, including but not limited to income from all pension, profit sharing or retirement plans, of whatever nature;
- The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
- The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;
- The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity;
- The opportunity for, ability of, and the time and costs involved for a party to acquire the appropriate education, training and employment to obtain the skills needed to enhance his or her earning ability
If your ex-wife earned more, had a better education, and had more opportunities to earn than you, she can be compelled to pay you spousal support. If you have greater financial need than she (you must repair and maintain the family home, pay student loan debts, or require expensive medical treatments, for example), the court can order her to pay you.
Perhaps, in marrying each other out of love and with little view toward the future, you gave up your higher education to start and raise a family. Throughout your married life the two of you divided the workload so that you stayed home, or worked a part-time job, while she climbed in her career.
It was probably a great choice while your marriage was thriving. You nurtured your children; they saw a good male role model; your wife grew in confidence and earning power. When the marriage sundered, though, circumstances changed. You need to be financially independent.
When you two divorce, she can be ordered to pay for you to finish your education, get good training in marketable job skills, and earn more to become financially stable.
Types of Spousal Support Payments
Spousal support in Virginia can take many forms. You may be able to earn an ongoing, regular spousal support payment, or you may qualify for a single lump payment. Payments for spousal support under § 20-107.1 (C) can be made as follows:
- in periodic payments for a defined duration
- in periodic payments for an undefined duration
- in a lump sum award
- in any combination thereof
This means your attorney can show the court a pressing, immediate financial need requiring your ex-wife to provide a large lump sum (the family home needs a new roof, for example) and an ongoing financial need (tuition for a local trade school) that requires periodic payments for an undefined duration.
Getting Spousal Support: What Not To Do
Judges frown on intentional unemployment or underemployment as a strategy to get spousal support. Work with your attorney to learn the best ways to go about proving genuine financial need but avoid anything that earns the wrath of the court. Lowering your income to make certain it is less than your ex-wife’s is not a guarantee of gaining spousal support.
Some courts use a rough formula to guide a judge in determining who earns spousal support and how much they earn. If your two incomes are roughly comparable, do not expect to get support unless you can prove an extraordinary need. In general, when your income is about half of hers, you can expect spousal support.
By calling 757-383-9184 or contacting us online, the family law attorneys of The Firm For Men can help you with your spousal support case. Our experienced spousal support attorneys know Virginia law, and we work hard to protect the men of Virginia in court. Get the spousal support you deserve; get with the best men’s law firm in the Commonwealth.