Serving the Needs of Virginia Families for over 25 years
When married parties separate, it is sometimes appropriate for one party to continue to support the other for a brief or even extended period of time. Virginia law allows for such support (often called alimony or maintenance). Under Virginia law, spousal support can be awarded on a temporary basis (called pendente lite support) in order to maintain the status quo pending a final support determination. Support may be determined temporarily by formula (often in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts or in limited jurisdictions like Fairfax County, Harrisonburg and Richmond).
However, this is the exception, not the rule and formula applications are not permitted at the final hearing. Typically, support, even temporary support, is determined upon consideration of a variety of factors relating to the parties' standard of living during the marriage; each party's needs, resources and ability to pay; the circumstances which led to the dissolution of the marriage; the contributions of the parties to the family; education; and other factors.
In a final determination by the court, spousal support may be paid on a periodic basis (such as monthly) for a limited term of years or permanently until death or remarriage of the recipient, or may be paid in a lump sum (a buy-out). Once determined, spousal support may also be modified by the court upon evidentiary proof of material change in circumstances, typically involving an increase or decrease in the needs of the party receiving support or a reduction in the paying party's income through no fault of his or her own. In addition, spousal support will end when the support recipient remarries, has been cohabiting in a relationship analogous to marriage for over one year, or when either party dies, unless sooner terminated by court order.
If parties reach an agreed resolution to spousal support through execution of a Property Settlement Agreement ("PSA"), spousal support may or may not be modifiable at a future date. Unless expressly reserved in an agreement, the court has no authority to modify spousal support as agreed in a PSA, regardless of future circumstances, whether anticipated or unanticipated.
As divorce lawyers (family law attorneys) it is very helpful when clients bring to the initial meeting documents reflecting the overall financial picture of the marriage and family to help us assess the likelihood and/or amount of a party's spousal support award. Income tax returns, account statements and summaries of expenses are all useful.
The process of severing ties with your spouse is strenuous in numerous ways, but having an expert in family law and divorce as your legal representation, as well as a guide to ensure you and your kin undergo a smooth transition, will make all the difference. If you or someone you know requires an attorney in family law, spousal support, and divorce, consider our team at the Family Law and Mediation Center. Throughout Fairfax, VA, as well as Northern Virginia, we have helped clients and their families receive fair results and helped to maintain stability throughout the legal process.
Contact us at (703) 691-3066 to learn more and discuss how you may need legal counsel and representation.