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Factors in Virginia spousal support decisions

Personal, legal and financial changes are part of the transition that takes place when a Virginia marriage ends. Some spouses are at a financial disadvantage during or after divorce. Spousal support helps one party fill the other's economic need.

A judge isn't required for separated and divorcing couples to come to an agreement about alimony. Courts get involved when a conflict arises over spousal support. Financial dependence isn't the only consideration used to determine whether alimony is warranted.

Either spouse has a right to request spousal support, but there is no guarantee a judge will grant that wish. The reason for separation can impact an alimony decision, although spousal maintenance is not meant to be a penalty for marital wrongdoing. Judges issue support awards after weighing multiple factors, including the length of the marriage.

Spousal support cannot be awarded when one party does not have the ability to provide it. Current and potential earnings for both parties are appraised. An alimony award also depends upon the way marital property is divided and individual contributions to the marriage and the ages, education and health conditions of the spouses.

Spousal support may be in the form of a lump sum payment or stretched out over an established period. Support may be confined to the time a couple is separated, before the divorce is finalized or extended beyond the date of a decree.

An end date is indefinite, since the requirement to pay or need for support may be challenged later through support modification requests. Virginia spouses also may exercise a "reservation" right, allowing the forfeiture of support at the time of divorce while leaving the window open for future alimony. A reservation period usually is limited according to the duration of a marriage.

Attorneys can clarify spousal support laws, as they affect your marital situation and represent your interests in negotiations and court.

Source: Virginia State Bar, "Divorce in Virginia" Jan. 05, 2015

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