Rose Ditano of Penhook, Virginia (over there in Franklin County) won $1 million in the Virginia Lottery recently1. She got it all in a lump sum, electronically deposited into her account. Spouses hoping for lump sum spousal support probably feel — if only for an instant — as happy and lucky as Rose. So what is lump sum spousal support?
When you and your wife divorce in Virginia, one of you most likely will be paying spousal support to the other. Many times (but not always!) you will be tapped to pay for her support. Except in unusual cases, you have four ways this can happen, as outlined in Code of Virginia § 20-107.1:
- Regular payments for a defined duration
- Regular payments for an undefined duration
- A single lump sum payment
- Any combination thereof
What Determines the Type of Spousal Support You’ll Pay?
Which of the lucky four numbers you get depends on many factors, but in no case are you scratching off a winner with this situation. In the first two cases, you will make regular (usually monthly) payments to your ex-wife so she can continue to live much as she lived while married to you. Bear in mind this is separate from child support, if the two of you had children.
Spousal Support for a Defined Duration
Regular payments for a defined duration is thought of (and referred to) as “rehabilitative” support, according to the Virginia State Bar and just about every attorney in the state. It is intended to get your ex-wife up and active as a wage-earning adult. It has an ending date, but can end earlier if your ex-wife remarries, cohabitates with someone in a marriage-like relationship for one year, or dies. The money is intended to be used to educate your ex-wife in a marketable skill and get her into the workforce, earning her own way.
If it sounds like you kept her barefoot, ignorant and in the kitchen during your marriage, that is exactly what the law was written to overcome. While some Virginian men in earlier times may have desired to keep their wives ignorant and dependent, most couples today are dual wage earners before becoming duelling wage earners.
Spousal Support for an Undefined Duration
The second option, paying spousal support for an undefined duration, is for cases where the two of you were married for so long, your wife has little chance of getting a job. So, month after month, year after year, you support her just as you did in marriage. The only three ways you stop writing the checks is if your ex-wife dies, marries someone else, or cohabitates for a year with another person in a relationship that appears to be a marriage. (Do not get any ideas other than setting her up with your half-witted brother; we don’t want to make this a criminal defense matter.)
These two methods are preferable for the average Virginian working a typical job, because as your income arrives, you can write a check to your ex-wife and out the money goes. It may be painful, but the regular, small contributions are less painful than the other two options.
Spousal Support Paid in a Lump Sum
A lump sum spousal support payment is a single, rather large transaction from your accounts to your ex-wife’s accounts. The name is a little misleading, because (sayeth the Virginia State Bar) the total amount is a given, but can be made in installments, much like car payments on a sweet 2017 Chevy Camaro SS 1LE with 6.2-liter V-8 doing 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds.
The total amount of the money you will pay your wife is determined by many issues, such as your resources, her role in the marriage, her ability to support herself, and the reasons for the divorce.
Say you are an award-winning researcher providing support for attorneys’ web logs (yes, we know they are called blogs, but the word came from web logs). You are a fabulously wealthy Virginian, building your wealth the new-fashioned way, from providing the basic backup for a sterling attorney to write, week after week, about legal matters. Your wife files for divorce because, let’s say, you are up at 5 a.m. researching and writing for three hours every day and never make her coffee — whatever her reason, just go with this.
The judge sees you have $1 million in your checking account and another $2 million in savings, stocks, and scratch-off tickets. Your ex-wife supported you from the days the two of you had to eat macaroni and cheese to the days of caviar for breakfast (yech!). The judge orders you to take $1.5 million of your money and give it to your ex-wife, in a single payment.
You can afford that. You owe her something. And once the check is written and deposited, you are done. You can go back to searching out Virginia dog bite laws and helping out the hard-working attorneys of the Old Dominion. The divorce, and spousal support, is now behind you.
If that wholly realistic scenario does not exactly match your circumstances, other combinations of lump sums and regular payments also are possible.
A judge may still order a lump sum payment if your wife is so completely without financial resources she cannot afford an apartment, car or other necessities of adult life. Your lump sum payment is intended to set her up from scratch with these basics. The judge could also order a large lump sum followed by regular monthly payments, with the lump sum intended to get her established in a house and enrolled in vocational training.
Call the Divorce Attorneys for Men
Please call The Firm for Men at 757-383-9184, or contact our offices, so we may help you sort out the lumps, bumps and bruises associated with a Virginia divorce. We are experienced men’s divorce attorneys working in the areas of child support, spousal support, divorce, and separation.