In every aspect of your life, divorce brings about a lot of painful scenarios. In fact, the emotional experience might be so stressful that you experience physical side effects. Or perhaps you are more inclined to notice the financial effects of a divorce. No matter how you view your pending split, divorce will bring a lot of turmoil into your life. However, if you are going to be facing a battle over alimony, it may just be the beginning.
Alimony has a tendency to transform a relatively amicable divorce into a bitter and hostile argument. One spouse feels that he or she is entitled to financial support from his or her former partner. Meanwhile, the other spouse feels like he or she should not have to give up his or her hard-earned money to support a former lover.
Rarely, two parties can agree on the necessity of alimony payments. Therefore, it helps to know exactly what the law says about alimony payments before you head to court.
Each state has its own set of alimony laws and rules, which you must abide by. They can set the standard for determining the final amounts, including scheduling payments. If you understand alimony in Virginia, you can have more peace of mind about what you might be entitled to, and how the process works.
Basics of Alimony in Virginia
Alimony in Virginia is often referred to as spousal support. These payments are issued from one spouse to the other, in order to help make up for a financial discrepancy. Spousal support can be issued from either spouse to the other one, based on a list of factors that every judge must consider. For example, there must be a demonstrated financial need, in order for a judge to issue an alimony payment.
In the state of Virginia, spousal support can be issued on a temporary or permanent basis. Temporary alimony gives a financially disadvantaged spouse the opportunity to get back on his or her own feet. He or she may have been a stay-at-home parent for several years, sacrificing his or her career and education so the other spouse could work. Temporary financial payments give these spouses the ability to return to school or training, so they can financially support themselves in the future.
However, permanent payments might be necessary when one spouse has a permanent disability or is considered too advanced in age to learn a new skill or trade. Permanent alimony is more common in longer marriages that end in divorce, while temporary alimony is more likely in shorter marriages.
Many people mistakenly believe that alimony payments are issued to punish one spouse for misconduct during the marriage. In the eyes of wronged spouses, these spouses must literally pay for their mistakes. However, the courts in Virginia prohibit this practice from taking place. They do not force a spouse who caused the eventual breakdown of the marriage to pay alimony payments to the wronged party.
Factors for Alimony in Virginia
Before judges are willing to make decisions about alimony payments, they must consider all of the necessary factors. This tactic allows them to determine whether you might qualify, how long spousal support should be paid, and what the final amount should be.
Here are just a few of the factors that judges take into consideration during an alimony case:
Income and Financial Resources of Both Spouses
A judge is only going to award alimony to a spouse that can demonstrate actual financial need. If both spouses have good incomes and access to personal assets(such as retirement savings accounts), alimony will probably not be considered.
Some spouses try to view this decision as an opportunity to take a lower-paying position that would prove they do not have the financial capacity to make alimony payments. You should be aware that a judge could order an assessment of your employability, including the amount you are capable of earning (based on your degree and training). This number could be used to calculate alimony in these situations.
The Earning Capacity of Both Spouses
Similar to weighing the income of both spouses, a judge must view what each spouse’s potential earning capacity is. He or she will take any training, education, and employment experience into consideration. Your earning capacity can be calculated by gauging how much it would be if you started working again at this exact moment. However, it can also show areas where you might need more training or education, in order to earn a reasonable income that places you closer to the marital standard of living.
Alimony can be temporarily granted, in order to help you financially while you pursue more education or training. Many states refer to this scenario as rehabilitative alimony.
Individual Assets of Both Spouses
The property and assets that belong to each spouse will also play a role in determining alimony payments. For example, a spouse that has access to income-generating property may not qualify for spousal support, even if his or her income is relatively low. The division of the marital property will also play a role in the review of spousal support.
Health of Both Spouses
A judge will consider whether either spouse is entitled to alimony, based on their ages or their physical and mental health. Special considerations will be made for disabilities and other ailments that prevent one spouse from working full-time.
Health of Children from the Marriage
Children with disabilities may make it impossible for one spouse to work outside the home. They may be full-time caregivers to a child, which makes going back to school or work nearly impossible for them. Therefore, spousal support could help them make ends meet.
Marital Standard of Living
Following a split, neither spouse will be expected to exceed the marital standard of living. However, alimony can help a disadvantaged spouse live up to the same standard that he or she has grown accustomed to throughout the union.
Length of the Marriage
Longer marriages tend to be more likely to qualify for alimony payments, particularly when they involve permanent alimony. However, the length of your marriage does not necessarily dictate whether or not you will receive spousal support.
Contributions of Each Spouse to the Marriage
This one is a little harder to consider, but a judge will try to account for all of the contributions that each party made to the marriage. Financial support is definitely considered, but so is the status of a homemaker.
By choosing to be homemakers, they may have allowed their spouses to further their careers, or to attain more education that helped improve their financial statuses. Therefore, a judge will view homemaking as a contribution to the marriage.
While spousal support payments cannot be used to punish one spouse for the breakdown of the marriage, marital misconduct does play a role in alimony payments. A spouse who has had an affair or committed domestic violence is not entitled to receive alimony payments.
However, the other spouse could be entitled to alimony payments, if there is a demonstrable financial need. But he or she is not entitled to it, solely on the basis of the bad behavior of his or her spouse.
Tax Consequences of Alimony Payments
One of the other major concerns for a judge involves the tax consequences of alimony payments. These spousal support payments are considered tax-deductible for the paying spouse. Depending on the numbers, this situation could bump spouses down into lower tax brackets, and effectively lower their overall tax liabilities for the year. This situation could help offset the cost of making payments over the course of the year.
However, the other spouse could be at a major disadvantage. The receiving spouse must claim the alimony payments as taxable income, which could put him or her in a higher tax bracket. This scenario would greatly increase the amount that he or she would owe the government at the end of the year, which would negate some of the financial support he or she receives from these payments.
Beyond the factors listed above, there are some financial considerations that many counties use to determine who is eligible for alimony in Virginia. Before alimony payments will be issued, most situations require one spouse to earn at least 50% more than the other spouse. In order for a judge to consider you for alimony payments, there must be a major discrepancy between the two incomes.
However, you will not be entitled to all of that additional income as an alimony payment. In fact, you will not even be entitled to half of it. Most judges use a specific formula to figure out how much alimony is reasonable for you to receive. In order to determine the annual alimony amount. They take 30% of the higher-earning spouse’s income, then subtract half of the lower income.
These payments can be terminated or modified after the paperwork has been sealed. In order to petition the court for modification, there must be some major change in the financial status of one spouse. For example, the paying spouse might lose his or her job, or the receiving spouse might take a job after graduating from a training course. This change may not be adequate to modify your alimony payments, but the court will make that decision.
You should also keep a close eye on your spouse’s new romantic involvements. A paying spouse can request the termination of spousal support after the receiving spouse has been living with a romantic partner for longer than one year. And if they remarry, it will automatically end. You should know that it is the receiving spouse’s responsibility to notify you about a remarriage, which is why keeping in touch with mutual friends and regularly checking in with your spouse could be helpful.
Fighting for Your Spousal Support
Obtaining spousal support during your divorce could give you the financial stability you need to start over. While it can be tumultuous and emotionally draining, you need to take all of the necessary steps to set yourself up for future success.
You can start by educating yourself about the spousal support you are entitled to in the state of Virginia. If you arm yourself with the knowledge you need about alimony in Virginia, you can fight for your right to spousal support. Then you can be thoroughly prepared for meetings with your attorney.