Spousal Support: Where do you file?

Virginia law allows you to file for spousal support two different ways. Each of these different methods of filing for spousal support require different burdens of proof and may have different results.

What are these two options, and which one is best for you?

Spousal Support: Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court ("JDR Court")

You can ask for spousal support prior to filing for divorce in Virginia. This is accomplished by requested spousal support through the JDR Court. There are several benefits of filing for support in the JDR Court.

The first major benefit is that you can ask for support prior to filing for divorce. This allows you to maintain your lifestyle while you wait the required time to file for divorce. Virginia requires you to wait a period of time between six (6) months and one (1) year depending on the circumstances of your case. However, you are likely to have considerable expenses during that time since one of you will have to move out.

The second major benefit is that there is a presumed amount of support in JDR Court. The JDR Court uses a calculus to determine the amount of support that is required based upon the incomes of the parties.

The downside of seeking support in JDR Court is that it will likely exacerbate the dispute between you and your spouse. It increases the likelihood that your spouse will seek a fault based grounds of divorce.

Spousal Support: Circuit Court

You can also ask for support as part of your divorce proceedings. There are several benefits of seeking support in the Circuit Court.

The first benefit is that Circuit Court applies a more thorough test to determine the amount of spousal support that will be paid. The Circuit Court takes into account a number of factors when setting support. The Circuit Court also has the ability to increase or decrease support depending on the unique facts of each case.

The second benefit is that you will be filing for divorce at the same time as your request for spousal support. This speeds up the process, and is ideal if you want to have a speedy divorce.

The downside of filing in Circuit Court is that you must also satisfy all the requirements for a divorce. For example, you must have resided in Virginia for more than six (6) months and have been living separate and apart for a period of time.

Why You Need a Lawyer

A lawyer is important to have because the lawyer can advise you on which of these two options are best in your particular case. A lawyer can also help you prepare the documentation and financial information the Court will need to make a spousal support determination. Failure to hire a lawyer may result in reduced spousal support.