What is Alimony?

 Going through a divorce is a difficult financial time for most people. There are the costs of lawyers, the costs of going to court instead of work, and the costs of losing the economic help from a spouse. Due to the stress divorce places on married couples, Virginia has an extensive area of law dedicated to helping relieve this economic stress. Alimony is Virginia's way of giving spousal support to the party in most need. Virginia does not view alimony as a game between spouses to see who can cheat the other out of money better, but a way of reconciling the economics realities divorces cause.


     Alimony law in Virginia is open-ended, and allows for a well-trained lawyer to make a compelling case for either side. Attorneys and litigants must consider a few things when presenting their alimony case to a judge. Under Virginia law, the court must take into consideration a list of statutory factors:


1. The obligations, needs and financial resources of the parties, including but not limited to income from all pension, profit sharing or retirement plans, of whatever nature;


This factor primarily involves things such as marital debt. Increased economic reliance on a spouse due to marital debts will cause a judge to be more likely to grant alimony.


2. The standard of living established during the marriage;


This factor includes things such as where the couple lived while married, the type of accommodations they were accustomed to, and other life style factors. A couple that lived in a fancy high-rise in Georgetown is more likely to owe larger spousal support than other couples.


3. The duration of the marriage;


Simply put, the shorter the marriage, the less alimony.


4. The age and physical and mental condition of the parties and any special circumstances of the family;


This factor takes into consideration earning capacity of the parties based on their mental health needs and the mental health needs of other family members.


5. The extent to which the age, physical or mental condition or special circumstances of any child of the parties would make it appropriate that a party not seek employment outside of the home;


This factor takes into consideration custody arrangements between the couple in relation to a special needs child. A parent that sacrifices to take care of a special needs child is likely to get more alimony.


6. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;


This factor takes into consideration who the primary bread winner of the family was. The more a person contributes to the family, the more likely that person will be required to help maintain the standard of living.


7. The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;


This factor is taken into consideration when there is substantial amounts of property to divide. If significant amounts of property are given over, then less alimony may be ordered.


8. The provisions made with regard to the marital property;


Similar factors to number 7.


9. The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity;


This factor takes into consideration the earning capacity of the individuals based on their levels of education. The more educated a person is, the better able they are to provide for the other spouse.


10. The opportunity for, ability of, and the time and costs involved for a party to acquire the appropriate education, training and employment to obtain the skills needed to enhance his or her earning ability;


Under this factor, the courts will impute a degree of ability to earn a living based on the ability of the spouse to obtain their own job.


11. The decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education and parenting arrangements made by the parties during the marriage and their effect on present and future earning potential, including the length of time one or both of the parties have been absent from the job market;


When a member of the family has given up a lot of opportunities in order to help the family, then they are more likely to receive support.


12. The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party; and


13. Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.


     As you can see, there are a variety of factors that go into a judicial determination of alimony. Each of these factors must be supported by sufficient evidence. This is one of the reasons that alimony is a rather complex area of law that normally requires an attorney to get a favorable result. If you find yourself in need of spousal support or alimony, it is always wise to hire an attorney to help you.