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How to Calculate Alimony in Virginia

by Timothea Xi

Divorcing couples in Virginia can decide among themselves how much spousal support, or alimony, should be paid by one spouse to the other. This can be set out in the terms of their marital settlement agreement, which should be reviewed by their respective attorneys. Absent a mutual agreement, a judge will determine what, if any, alimony will be paid. Numerous factors enter into this decision.

Many Factors Are Weighed

In determining spousal support, a Virginia court looks at numerous factors, including the financial resources and needs of each spouse, their standard of living, their ages, the physical and mental condition of family members and any special circumstances that prevent a spouse from seeking employment outside the home, such as disability. Based on these varied factors, the court determines the amount of spousal support, as well as the duration and frequency of the payments.

Types of Spousal Support Payments

Three basic types of spousal support are available in Virginia. A periodic payment for a limited duration, called "rehabilitative" support, is designed to give financial help to a lower-income spouse until he can become self-supporting. Judges often award periodic support payments for an unlimited length of time to parties divorcing after a long marriage. Lump-sum payments are one-time payouts.

Temporary Spousal Support Formula

Virginia law sets out a formula for the courts to use when calculating temporary, or pendente lite, support. Temporary support provides financial help to a spouse until the divorce decree becomes final. For example, in Fairfax County, you calculate spousal support depending on whether child support is also granted. If not, take 30 percent of the gross income of the higher-income spouse and subtract it by 50 percent of the gross income of the lower-income spouse. If child support is in effect, you take 28 percent of the payor's gross income less 58 percent of the payee's gross income.

Changing Spousal Support Payments

Once the court determines an amount of permanent spousal support, it can be modified only in the case of a substantial change in circumstances, such as a party's job loss or evidence that the recipient spouse has been living with a significant other for a year or more. When there is a material change in the parties' circumstances, the judge can increase, decrease or stop support payments altogether. However, spousal support cannot be modified if it is part of a marital support agreement that does not specifically allow for future changes. If either spouse dies, or the recipient spouse remarries, spousal support automatically terminates.

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