A substantial portion of Smith & Wells, P.C.’s case load is divorce work consisting of, not only preparing the final divorce decree, but also advocating for our client’s marital property division, custody arrangements, and child and spousal support. We pride ourselves on being compassionate and extremely knowledgeable when it comes to counseling our clients during what is usually a very disruptive and difficult time in their lives. Inevitably, during the divorce process, most clients will have questions concerning spousal support obligations regardless of whether they are the party seeking support or the party seeking to limit support. These questions typically revolve around if a spouse is eligible for support, and if so, how much?
For a court to determine a spouse’s eligibility for support it must look at the facts and circumstances contributing to the end of the marriage. If a spouse committed adultery, sodomy, or buggery outside of marriage the offending spouse is automatically ineligible for permanent maintenance and support. Va. Code Ann. §20-107.1(B) (1950). The court may also consider other fault grounds to determine eligibility such as if a spouse has been convicted of a felony after marriage and sentenced to confinement of a year or more, if a spouse is guilty of cruelty, if a spouse abandoned or deserted the other spouse, or if a spouse caused a “reasonable apprehension” of bodily hurt upon the other spouse. Va. Code Ann. §20-91(A)(3)(6). Although these fault grounds serve as a bar to spousal support a court may still award it if the denial of support would constitute a manifest injustice. Va Code Ann. §20-107.1(B). After the court determines a party is eligible for support it will weigh the abilities and needs of each party to determine the amount.
When determining the “nature, amount, and duration” of a spousal support award the court considers a variety of factors enumerated in the Virginia Code. Va. Code Ann. §20-107.1(E). The factors include, but are not limited to,”[t]he obligations, needs, and financial resources of the parties, the standard of living established during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, property interests of the parties, the earning capacities of the parties, and the extent to which either party contributed to the attainment of education.” Id. The statute also contains a catch-all provision allowing the court to take under advisement other factors necessary to “consider the equities between the parties.” Id.
Whether or not you are the party seeking spousal support or the party seeking to limit spousal support it is helpful to know the process the court uses to determine eligibility and the award amount. Please feel free to contact us to set up an initial consultation if you have specific questions or which you would like to receive legal counsel.
–Ross Charles Allen
Smith & Wells, P.C. blog posts are not legal advice and should not be construed as such. If you would like to receive legal advice please contact the firm at (804) 794-8070 to schedule an initial consultation.