How is spousal support decided?

On Behalf of | May 21, 2024 | Family law

It’s a common misconception that in a divorce, one spouse will receive spousal support for the rest of their lives. However, that is far from the truth.

There are many factors to consider when determining whether a spouse will receive support, such as how much support they will receive and for how long.

The different types of spousal support

In Virginia, the purpose of spousal support is to provide financial assistance to the lower-earning spouse, helping to ensure both parties can maintain a reasonable standard of living. There are several types of spousal support:

1. Pendente lite is temporary support that is awarded during divorce proceedings. Its purpose is to provide financial assistance to the lower-earning spouse until the final divorce decree is issued.

2. Rehabilitative support is temporary and meant to assist the recipient spouse in becoming self-sufficient by acquiring education, training or work experience.

3. Permanent support may be awarded in cases where the marriage was long-term, and the recipient spouse is unlikely to become self-sufficient due to age, health or other factors. 

In addition, instead of periodic payments, lump-sum support may be provided, which is a one-time payment made to the recipient spouse.

To ensure a fair and equitable outcome for both parties, the court considers several factors in determining spousal support, such as:

  • Length of marriage
  • Financial needs, resources and obligations of both spouses, which includes income, expenses, debts and the standard of living established during the marriage
  • The earning capacity, job skills and employability of each spouse. The court will also consider if one spouse gave up work opportunities to raise the family or advance the other spouse’s career.
  • The age, physical condition and emotional health of both spouses 
  • The distribution of marital property and assets, including retirement benefits

Understanding the different factors determining the amount and duration of spousal support is key to being prepared. Many times, couples can negotiate and come to a mutual agreement. A less adversarial approach can be more time and cost-effective.