In Virginia you will not hear the word “alimony” much, if at all. The preferred and legal term is “spousal support,” and it nearly always falls to Virginia’s men to pay their ex-wives spousal support, rather than the ex-wives paying the men. Many Virginia men rightfully want to put an end to spousal support payments, which can seem to drag on forever. Here are six ways a competent lawyer, a wise judge and you can avoid paying spousal support in Virginia.
Why Spousal Support?
Virginia’s courts do not order spousal support as some sort of punishment to you, the guy. The court sees a responsibility to keep the supported spouse in the same reasonable comfort and accommodation as the marriage provided, so once your ex-wife is free and clear to support herself, spousal support payments can diminish or disappear. It is not a penalty imposed on you.
1: Avoid Spousal Support by Earning Less Than She Earns
You can and should avoid paying spousal support if you are not the main breadwinner during your marriage. This does not mean you should deliberately seek poverty; perhaps you as a hard-working blue collar worker married a PhD or medical professional. If she earns more than you, you may be able to collect spousal support from her.
The Code of Virginia is carefully gender neutral on spousal and child support, and makes no presumptions as to who should pay whom. The terms of both support payment plans are spelled out in § 20-108.1.
2: Avoid Spousal Support by Getting Her Hooked Up
If your ex-wife remarries, you can ask the court to end your spousal support payments. She is legally required to notify you if she does remarry, because under Code of Virginia § 20-109, subsection D, “spousal support and maintenance shall terminate upon the death of either party or remarriage of the spouse receiving support.”
3: Avoid Spousal Support by Asking to Have Her Evaluated
What can she do? Suppose your ex-wife spent 10 years helping to raise your kids, staying at home making PB&Js and changing diapers. She may act somewhat helpless, and rely on the courts to make you pay a lot of spousal support. Yet before you two married, perhaps she was an accountant, or sous chef, or teacher. She can return to the job market if you can get the court to get a vocational evaluation on her, as prescribed by Code of Virginia § 20-108.1, subsection H. The unbiased evaluation will show the court her marketable skills. The court would limit your spousal support to a reasonable length of time for her to find a job. The court would also compel her to pay (or reimburse you) for the testing.
4: Avoid Spousal Support by Getting Her Skilled Up
You can limit your spousal support payments if you steer her into vocational training. You may be compelled to pay for a definite and very limited time if you and your attorney can show that, with vocational training, she can be completely self-supporting.
5: Avoid Spousal Support by Retiring
Not at 45; wait until 65 or so, but if you divorced your wife close to a reasonable retirement age, you and your Virginia attorney can assist the court to see that your diminished and limited retirement income means either a reduction or end to your spousal support payments.
6: Avoid Spousal Support by Making it a Quickie
If your Virginia marriage was extremely short (say, a year or so), the court can reasonably infer that she did not put significant resources into it and therefore cannot get significant resources out of you. In general, the longer you were married, to harder you will find extricating yourself from being responsible for her, if you earned more than she.
If you both stepped into and out of marriage quickly, neither of you developed the strong bonds of dependency and marital property that a couple married 20 years has developed. She likely still has her separate property; she may even have sufficient skills and financial resources to get on with her life without any financial support from you.
Not A Wise Move
Having explored a half dozen legitimate ways to avoid spousal support, we would be remiss not to mention three of the less stellar ideas people have attempted (and failed miserably):
- Voluntary unemployment — You do not want to incur the ill will (wrath) of a Virginia judge in any court (Circuit Court, Juvenile and Family Court, District Court) by suddenly and unexpectedly getting fired from your position through some inane behavior on your part; you will quickly learn what “imputed income” means
- Malingerer’s Syndrome — A surprisingly timely case of a mysterious malady that leaves you “too ill” to work is also likely to leave a judge cranky; Virginia’s attorneys do not enjoy facing cranky judges, and neither will you, if you survive the encounter
- Declaring bankruptcy — Oy; please, the mere thought gives us a (real) headache; it not only does not work, it causes a lot of extra effort for everyone
- Refusal to Pay Her — This unoriginal and unclever “solution” can earn you three hots and a cot, courtesy of the Virginia Department of Corrections
Talk it Out with Spousal Support Lawyers for Men
Your wisest move in attempting to defer, lower or avoid spousal support payments is to talk it out with your spousal support attorney. Just as nobody enjoys paying taxes, nobody enjoys paying spousal support, but sometimes you must. Your attorney is ideally positioned to find a workable, legal strategy to minimize the effects on your budget and life.
At The Firm For Men, we do not want you to pay more than your fair share of child support or spousal support. We will work for you unstintingly to keep your spousal support payments as small as possible, postpone them, or avoid them altogether. Call us at 757-383-9184 today to schedule a consultation.