Virginians sure have some peculiar ideas about how life works. For example, say a man wanted to attack his wife and a man with a knife. Where is the worst possible place to commit such an awful crime?  How about outside a courthouse? You know, like a big government building overflowing with police officers. The Virginian-Pilot reports that a Chesapeake man with poor decision-making skills did just that. Peculiar. Like people’s ideas about the purpose of spousal support. Peculiar.

Spousal Support 101

Virginia law allows judges to determine spousal support in divorce cases. Under Code of Virginia spousal support is provided by one spouse to the other either during the divorce proceeding (pendente lite support, § 20-103) or after the final decree (§ 20-107.1).

Spousal support is not given as a reward or withheld as a punishment. It is not a payoff, a way to rid yourself of your unwanted spouse. It is meant, according to the law, to allow both parties to continue their lives at “a standard of living established during the marriage.”

A judge determining spousal support takes into account many factors, under the law, not least of which is …

  1. The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity;
  2. 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;

Virginia expects spouses to be weaned from spousal support. The question is, how long does this take, and what propels it?

Mitigating Factors

Among the [many] mitigating factors a judge must consider when determining a dollar amount of spousal support, one factor stands out:

  1. 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; 

If you divorce your spouse and she cannot work because of her parenting duties (even if you and she split physical custody), you may be providing spousal support for years. Think: you have a 3-, 7-, and 12-year-old. The oldest will turn 18 in only six years, and you think to yourself, “I can pay spousal support for six years.” The youngest, though, will not turn 18 for another 15 years! A judge may say you have to pay spousal support until all your children become adults.

Other mitigating factors include:

  • the length of time your spouse may have been out of the job market
  • if she gave up working so you could gain a higher education
  • if she has physical or mental limitations preventing her from gainful employment

So, Oh Happy Day when she says, after years and years of your steady, monthly payments, that she got a job.

Modifications to Spousal Support

You have every right to ask for a modification to a spousal support order if “material circumstances” have changed since the order was written. Kids aged out? Ex-wife sold the family mansion and is living in a two-room apartment? Ex-wife won the lottery? All material changes in circumstances. She may not be at the mercy of your money anymore.

A job may also provide her the material change in circumstances that allow the court to revisit the support decree. Your family law attorney can work with you to draft the petition, but expect your ex-wife to fight it. She has a lot of other factors in § 20-107.1 to point to, to argue that your money should continue to be her money.

Can You Prevent Paying Lifetime Spousal Support?

Your attorney, in drafting a property settlement agreement that includes spousal support, can prevent the ongoing drip-drip-drip of blood and treasure from you to your ex-wife by:

  • Asking for a defined duration of a certain number of years or months, or
  • Asking for a defined total amount, after which your wife receives no further support, or
  • Asking for a defined amount targeted to educating her so she can be employed, or
  • Asking for a lump sum to be given to her, after which she gets no further support from you, or
  • Asking the court to provide a mix of these options

Set Expectations: Call The Firm For Men’s Spousal Support Attorneys

If your ex-wife has peculiar ideas about your responsibility to support her in perpetuity, your attorney can help clarify your legal obligations. She can get a job, find her own financial freedom, and free you from spousal support.

If you have funny, or confused, or uncertain ideas about spousal support, turn to the highly trained spousal support attorneys at The Firm For Men. Contact us online or call our offices at 757-383-9184. From spousal support to child support to divorce and much more, we are ready to help you, Virginia’s men, protect your wallets and rights.