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Considerations in the Determination of Spousal Support

When making a determination about the appropriateness and amount of spousal support, the Virginia courts consider a variety of factors, including the marital standard of living, length of marriage and marital property division.

Marital Standard of Living

This information is generally used as a starting point in determining what value of child support is equitable. Though it is quite common for both spouses to experience a lesser standard of living after divorce, the courts generally try to keep the financial condition of each spouse as near as possible to where it was during the marriage. For example, the courts generally will not allow one spouse to continue living well off, while the other is left in financial ruin.
In determining the marital standard of living, the court tends to review a number of circumstances, such as:

  • Purchases during the marriage
  • The marital income of both spouses
  • Marital savings balances

Length of marriage

Length of the marriage is also a factor in the determination of an appropriate spousal support amount. It provides a time gauge for how long one spouse has depended on the other financially. Though not impossible, shorter marriages are less likely to result in a spousal support obligation. Particularly in situations where one spouse did not work, the length of marriage tells the court how long it has been since the person was financially independent. This information is primarily used to determine whether the spouse will receive no alimony, rehabilitative alimony or permanent alimony.

Ability to earn income

A spouse’s ability to earn income significantly affects the standard of living he or she will experience in the future. There are several reasons why a spouse may have a decreased ability to earn income, including:

  • Illness
  • Lack of education
  • Lack of work experience

In these situations, the court may order spousal support to promote the financial well-being of the spouse in the future indefinitely or for a time period that allows the spouse to accumulate education or employment experience.

Marital property division

Virginia courts also consider the division of property for spousal support. The general goal of the Virginia courts is creating an equitable split of assets between the divorcing spouses. Property division is included in that equation. If one party received a significantly larger portion of the property than the other, the courts may include the value of the property when calculating a spousal support obligation.
Division of marital property is also considered in another way. For example, if one spouse is awarded the marital home to reside in with the minor children, the courts may order a spousal support payment that promotes the financial maintenance of the home.

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