What is alimony? How do I know if I’m entitled to it?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a set of court-ordered financial payments made from one spouse to the other during divorce proceedings (called pendente lite spousal support) or after a divorce or both. These payments usually occur on a monthly basis and may be ordered either indefinitely or for a predetermined period.

In Virginia, alimony is typically awarded when one spouse has significantly more financial resources than the other, like in cases involving a substantial income disparity. Its general purpose is to help the receiving spouse maintain the standard of living they enjoyed during their marriage. The recipient also benefits from not having to pay taxes on it.

If you’re getting divorced in Fairfax, understanding how the state’s alimony laws may apply can help you weigh your legal options and make informed decisions. Continue reading to learn more, then contact Select Law Partners PLLC to discuss your options with one of our divorce lawyers.

what is alimony

What type of alimony is awarded in Virginia?

Alimony comes in different forms, each with different purposes and time frames. The type you may be entitled to will depend on your needs and circumstances.

Temporary/emergency alimony

The court may order temporary, or emergency, alimony while a divorce case is pending. This is called pendente lite spousal support in Virginia. This often occurs in cases where the spouses separated and the lower-earning spouse no longer has access to the resources they had while living with their spouse. This arrangement ensures that the receiving spouse can continue to make ends meet before the divorce is finalized. Virginia uses statutory guidelines to determine pendente lite spousal support; those guidelines can be found here.

Rehabilitative alimony

This type of spousal support is also temporary, but starts when the divorce is finalized. Rehabilitative alimony is most commonly ordered in cases where one spouse left the workforce or downgraded their career to care for the family. It’s intended to provide the receiving spouse with a chance to regain their financial footing while they pursue the necessary education, training, or experience to become self-supporting.

Indefinite alimony

In rare cases, the court may award indefinite alimony, which is an ongoing arrangement with no set end date. This type of spousal support is most common when the receiving spouse has a disability or medical condition that prevents them from earning enough income to support themselves, but other factors such as age and the length of the marriage may also come into play.

How to obtain alimony

There are two ways to seek alimony in Virginia: by negotiating a settlement agreement with your spouse or by asking the court to award it during spousal support proceedings in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court or in the Circuit Court during divorce proceedings.

If both spouses are open to negotiating a mutually favorable agreement, they can create a settlement agreement that includes an alimony arrangement. The terms of the alimony arrangement can be fairly flexible, allowing it to be tailored to the unique needs of the family. This option may also make alimony possible in cases where the court wouldn’t normally award it.

If the spouses cannot reach a settlement agreement, the decision will be up to the court. Either spouse may request alimony and the court will consider whether they qualify for it.

Factors that determine alimony

Virginia law specifies the factors that the court must consider when determining what alimony is awarded and for how long. These include, but aren’t limited, to:

  • The needs, obligations, and resources of both spouses
  • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The earning capacity and employment prospects of each spouse
  • The contributions that each spouse made to the marriage
  • The grounds for divorce

Keep in mind that these factors only apply when the decision is left to the court. If the spouses can negotiate an agreement, the terms of alimony are entirely up to them.

Explore your options with our family law attorneys

Alimony can help ensure that both spouses are taken care of during and after a divorce, but it’s not guaranteed. If you think you may be entitled to spousal support, working with a Fairfax divorce lawyer can help improve your chances of obtaining the support you need.

Contact Select Law Partners, PLLC at (855) 541-4867 to discuss your case and learn more about your options.