We must all feel a certain pity for poor Antonio C., 99 years young and happily married to 96-year-old Rosa C., for 77 years. The Italian couple’s blissful marriage, according to the New York Daily News,1 crashed on the rough rocks of divorce when Antonio discovered Rosa’s love letters (not to him) from the 1940s. Whatever the laws in Italy, Antonio will likely have to provide support for his ex-wife, unless she manages to find a job as a grape stomper at the local vineyard.

How Much Spousal Support Will You Have to Pay?

We are not saying every marriage feels like a prison sentence, but if yours did, you may feel you are emerging from a dark cell into a brave, new world once your Virginia divorce is final. To find out what you will pay in spousal support may feel a bit like being dragged back in “for additional questioning.”

The Code of Virginia removes most of the surprise (and romance?) from the calculation of spousal support. As codified in § 20-107.1, the court will decide support and maintenance of a spouse based on several factors, quoted here verbatim:

“1. 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;

  1. The standard of living established during the marriage;
  2. The duration of the marriage; … 
  3. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
  4. The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible; …”

Being a legal document, this list goes on, reaching down to item 13 before moving on to more sleep-inducing paragraphs. The rest is the stuff of a lengthy, tranquilizing meeting with your lawyer, but item 3 above should stand out: the duration of your marriage can affect spousal support.

Many Virginians marry in their 20s and then grow their families alongside their careers, earning more as the years unfold. A divorce court judge will look at how long each spouse has “invested” in the marriage, and use those years as a guide to spousal support. This makes sense; consider being downsized from a company. Say you worked at a company for two or three years before they cut you loose; you do not expect much of a golden parachute. Now say you worked for a company for 25 years; you expect a great severance package.

Spousal Support & Property Settlements

Along the years of marriage, you and your ex-wife may have invested wisely, bought a horse farm, opened a winery; whatever you did, you tried to add real value to your assets. These property interests took time to mature and develop, so indirectly, the longer you are married, the more your property interests will affect the amount of spousal support.

We are not assuming every divorced couple comes to our conference room table with a portfolio of horse farms and wineries. Even if all you and your ex-wife managed to do was buy new tar paper for your shack, you still made improvements to your property, and that boosts the value of your assets. That, in turn, boosts the amount of spousal support you may have to pay. That will be true even if she remains in the tar paper shack, or on the horse farm.

Property Division: Splitting Real Property

In Virginia, the division of real property will reflect less a 50-50 split than an apportioning based on each spouse’s earnings. Suppose you bought and sold quarter horses and your ex-wife worked at Hardee’s during your marriage. She depended on you for the standard of living you both enjoyed (even discounting her little habit of bringing home supposedly leftover “2/3 Lb Double Bacon Cheese Thickburgers” every night), so you will likely pay her spousal support. She may get 60 percent of the horse farm’s profits and you but 40 percent. (And if she really was bringing home those 1,300-calorie burgers, you might want to see a cardiologist. Or a dietitian. Or a liposuctionist.)

Trust the Divorce Lawyers for Men with Your Spousal Support Issues

In case you are struggling with questions of marriage and divorce, and feel the years catching up to you, take heart: Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher hold the Guinness World Record for longest marriage, at 86 years. Only death did them part.

Not every marriage can be the rock the Fishers built upon. If you are contemplating divorce, you have your reasons, and we hope they are good ones. You probably will be better off — even given the costs spousal support may place on you — by getting yourself (and your wallet) to a happier place.

Speak with one of our attorneys at The Firm for Men by calling 757-383-9184. We can help clear up any confusion about spousal support, child support, or separation issues.

[1] http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/99-year-old-italian-man-divorces-96-year-old-wife-finding-secret-love-letters-1940s-article-1.998455

Virginia spousal support attorney