The treadmill may be both a metaphor for undesirable work and an actual exercise tool for the 21st century, but at one time is was very real and very bad. According to Smithsonian magazine, “Its inventor, English engineer Sir William Cubitt, thought the labor would help ‘reform stubborn and idle convicts.’” Sometimes the aftereffects of divorce can make a Virginia man feel he is on a perpetual treadmill, like when that monthly alimony payment goes in the mail. Is an end in sight?

Virginia Code Says

Virginia’s legal code in § 20-107.1 says that spousal support payments may:

… be made in periodic payments for a defined duration, or in periodic payments for an undefined duration, or in a lump sum award, or in any combination thereof.

Well, then, how is a Virginia man supposed to know what the defined duration is, or if the spousal support is a combination of defined and undefined duration? How long must a man keep paying his ex-wife?

Virginia Code also stipulates reasons that spousal support (alimony) could extend into the distant future. The same section of the law gives 13 factors a judge can use in determining spousal support, but key to duration is this factor:

In determining the nature, amount and duration of an award pursuant to this section, the court shall consider the following:

 … 3. The duration of the marriage;

If you and your ex-wife were married upwards of thirty years, and you make more money than your ex-wife, you can expect to be supporting her, well, possibly for the rest of her life.

Her ability to earn income and be financially independent may have been permanently harmed by her devotion to your marriage. Instead of working, perhaps she instead:

  • Bore and raised your children
  • Kept the house clean, stocked, and running
  • Bought and cooked all your meals
  • Handled household finances

Though these skills are valuable, they are not easily marketable if, at age 50+, she tries to put her labor on the market.

Nay Nay

Virginia is one of the majority of states to no longer legally decree permanent spousal support. Only a small handful of states have it as an option on their books:

  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia

While you may feel your spousal support payments extend to the grave, in Virginia at least you can appeal payment orders in the future. You can find a legal way to terminate them if, for example, you can prove your financial circumstances have markedly changed or your ex-wife’s ability to earn money has improved.

So while Virginia does not stipulate permanent alimony, do any conditions exist that increase the likelihood of you paying into her golden years?

Factors Considered for Spousal Support

That same pesky law, § 20-107.1, gives a few more reasons your ex-wife may not be able to earn a living:

… 4. The age and physical and mental condition of the parties and any special circumstances of the family;

5. The extent to which the age, physical or mental condition or special circumstances of any child of the parties would make it appropriate that a party not seek employment outside of the home; … 

… 9. The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity;

10. 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; …

You are not inhumane. Factors 4 and 5 are logical, sensible, and understandable. No good divorce attorney would dare to attack your ex-wife on those grounds.

Contingent Upon Skills & Education

Factors 9 and 10, however, provide some leeway for terminating spousal support at some future date. If you have partnered with a good divorce attorney, the divorce decree will specify spousal support contingent on getting your ex-wife the skills and education she needs to be self-sufficient.

Those factors are your surest way to avoid permanent spousal support. Show a willingness to pay for her to return to school, take up a trade, or pursue a degree. Acknowledge her non-cash contributions to your marriage and show gratitude by agreeing to pay readily and generously … for a while.

She Deserves?

Her attorney will argue against your payments of specified duration. Be prepared for her attorney to claim, under the same section of Virginia law, a seemingly endless list of intangible contributions she made to the marriage that deserve years and years of financial remuneration:

  • Intimacy
  • Companionship
  • Child bearing and rearing
  • Cooking, cleaning, shopping, sewing, laundering …

She deserves spousal support of undefined duration. Why? It is in the law:

… the court shall consider the following:

  1. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family; …
  2. The decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education and parenting arrangements made by the parties during the marriage and their effect on present and future earning potential, including the length of time one or both of the parties have been absent from the job market; … 

Though permanent alimony is not Virginia law, you and your attorney have to vigorously defend your right to end spousal support payments at some date in the (perhaps not too distant) future. Whatever Virginia law does, it can undo: § 20-109 of Code of Virginia permits changing or terminating spousal support. Look to the future!

Call a Spousal Support Attorney Representing Men ONLY

The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184 or by contacting us online stands ready to help you, Virginia’s men, as you struggle with family law matters large and small. Divorce problems? We can help. Not getting enough parenting time with your beloved children? We can help. Struggling with spousal support? We can help.