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How To Avoid Paying Alimony In Virginia

Terminating Spousal Support In Virginia

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The first thing a person would need to look at to determine if spousal support can be terminated in Virginia is whether the spousal support obligation is modifiable. Assuming that it is, then a person would have to show a material financial change in circumstances that would justify the elimination of support, such as loss of income by the payor or a windfall of income by the payee. In addition, if the recipient of spousal support has remarried or entered into a cohabitation relationship for more than a year, then spousal support would likely end.

To determine whether your Virginia spousal support payments can be terminated, it is pertinent that you consult with an experienced alimony lawyer immediately.

Other Factors To Consider

Alimony is an antiquated practice turned into modern-day law. Its a way to make one spouse continually responsible for the other even long after they were spouses.

Much of the Hammurabi Code has been abandoned and removed from the present-day legal system. When the practice of alimony will also be discarded is unclear.

Some progressive states have made changes to their alimony laws to restrict the circumstances under which a spouse qualifies for support.

Other laws restrict further, only allowing enough time for the receiver to get back on his or her feet. If at the end of that term the recipient still needs support, a motion to extend must be filed.

Virginia Spousal Support Laws Are Relatively Traditional

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Judges have fairly wide discretion to craft awards.

A wave of alimony reform debate has hit many states, resulting in major changes to some of their laws. Of particular concern to some reformers arespousal maintenance laws that allow for permanent, lifetime payments and that give judges wide discretion, instead of requiring them to apply legislative guidelines.

Old Dominion has not incorporated these reforms. Virginias alimony law still allows permanent alimony in appropriate situations and gives judges significant discretionary powers. In addition, Virginia still requires that a judge take adultery into consideration, contrary to some other states that do not allow any consideration of marital fault in the alimony question.

Many divorcing couples negotiate settlement agreements in their divorces in which they agree how the legal issues between them will be resolved, including whether spousal support will be paid and its amount and duration. If they do not settle, however, the state court judge assigned to the divorce case must decide these alimony matters.

Under Virginia statute, the judge may order alimony he or she deems expedient to meet the support needs of the spouse who will have fewer assets or higher needs. The award can be in a lump sum or in periodic payments either set to end on a certain date or to continue indefinitely. The judge also has the option to reserve the right to alimony in the future after the divorce has concluded.

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Can I Avoid Alimony In A No

If youve determined you live in a no-fault divorce state, dont panic! For every law, theres a loophole, and alimony laws are no exception. The most foolproof way you can avoid alimony to a cheating spouse in a no-fault state is with a prenuptial agreement.

A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract that supersedes the laws regarding alimony. If your spouse signed a prenuptial agreement forfeiting alimony due to infidelity, you may not have to pay anything.

If youve yet to tie the knot and youre just looking at ways to protect your future, think about signing a prenuptial agreement. The stigma surrounding these agreements is starting to fade. A prenuptial agreement can save you and your spouse a lot of heartache in the future.

Another way to avoid alimony in a no-fault state is to negotiate with your soon-to-be-ex. If you and your spouse can work together to reach a no alimony agreement, then the judge should honor it.

Keep Tabs On Your Spouses Relationship

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When the receiving spouse starts living with a new partner or significant other, certain states will stop making alimony payments required. This information may be contained in the fine print of your divorce decree for the greatest information, have your attorney read over the section about alimony payments with you.

Keep watch of what your ex-spouse is up to when it comes to their relationships. As a new marriage will usually allow the payments to stop. Follow them on social media and through friends to keep an eye on them. Make sure youre informed of when your circumstances change so you can stop receiving alimony payments.

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How Do I Enforce A Support Order

If you are worried that your spouse will not pay a support order, or if your spouse is refusing to pay a valid support order, Virginia law allows for an income deduction order to be entered by the court. A Virginia court has the power to order that the spouses employer deduct the appropriate monthly amount due from the employees pay check and to pay that amount to the spouse entitled to receive the support.

A Brief History Of Spousal Support In Virginia Divorce Law

Spousal Support was first established by English ecclesiastical courts to provide support to wives incident to divorce. Under ecclesiastical law, marriages were indissoluble. Separations ) were available but the husbands duty to support the wife was an ongoing obligation of the marriage.

What we commonly think of as a divorce today is technically known as an absolute divorce . This complete divorce did not emerge as an option to wedded couples until the mid-1800s. Absolute divorce is a complete legal termination of the marriage. All duties owed between spouses are terminated except as otherwise ordered by the court. Initially, absolute divorce was only granted in the case of adultery. Then, as now, adultery worked as an absolute bar to a spouses right to receive spousal support except in the rarest cases.

Over time, absolute divorce evolved into its modern form and now it is the most common type of divorce granted. Despite this progression, courts for a long time retained the notion of a husbands duty to support the wife except in cases of adultery. One reason often used to explain this was established gender roles in society that were hard to shake off .

The United States Supreme Court affirmed gender neutrality within the marriage in Orr v. Orr wherein the Court held that a statutory scheme in Alabama that imposed alimony obligations on husbands but not on wives was an unconstitutional equal protection violation:

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Alimony In Virginia: Your Complete Guide

In every aspect of your life, divorce brings about a lot of painful scenarios. In fact, the emotional experience might be so stressful that you experience physical side effects. Or perhaps you are more inclined to notice the financial effects of a divorce. No matter how you view your pending split, divorce will bring a lot of turmoil into your life. However, if you are going to be facing a battle over alimony, it may just be the beginning.

Alimony has a tendency to transform a relatively amicable divorce into a bitter and hostile argument. One spouse feels that he or she is entitled to financial support from his or her former partner. Meanwhile, the other spouse feels like he or she should not have to give up his or her hard-earned money to support a former lover.

Rarely, two parties can agree on the necessity of alimony payments. Therefore, it helps to know exactly what the law says about alimony payments before you head to court.

Each state has its own set of alimony laws and rules, which you must abide by. They can set the standard for determining the final amounts, including scheduling payments. If you understand alimony in Virginia, you can have more peace of mind about what you might be entitled to, and how the process works.

Can I Get Spousal Support In Virginia

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It depends. Typically, spousal support is at issue when the parties have been married for a substantial length of time and there is a significant difference in incomes . Spousal support may be ordered if someone has been out of the workforce, working part-time, or gave up opportunities in order to support the other spouses career. Spousal support may also be ordered if a spouse is disabled or otherwise unable to work.


Alimony or spousal support must either be agreed upon or ordered by the court. Support may be ordered pendente lite which is on a temporary basis while the divorce is pending. Temporary or pendente lite spousal support is based on guidelines which use the parties gross monthly income and whether they have children to determine a presumptive amount. These guidelines are similar to a Virginia spousal support calculator. Then, the court considers the parties current financial circumstances. Pendente lite spousal support not determinative of a final decision regarding alimony. You may receive more or less than the final determination as the Court may look at different aspects at the final hearing or trial such as imputation of income. A final alimony determination will be reached either after agreement through negotiations or through trial. The agreement or order will specify the amount of the support as well as the term either for a specific length of time or for an indefinite duration.


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Where Can I Find Additional Information About Divorce In Virginia

Virginia Legal Aid Society has answers to some frequently asked questions about divorce and separation in Virginia. Included in this link is information about the grounds for divorce, the residency requirements in order to seek a divorce in Virginia, and an explanation about the grounds for an annulment.

Central Virginia Legal Aid Society explains the factors considered by a judge when granting spousal support in Virginia.

WomensLaw.org has the actual language of the law regarding spousal support and the factors considered on our Selected Virginia Statutes page.

The Fairfax Circuit Court has a pro se divorce brochure, which walks you through the divorce process.

WomensLaw.org has no relationship with the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information on their sites. We provides these links solely for informational purposes.

Contacting A Virginia Alimony Attorney

An empathetic attorney knows just how difficult and painful a divorce or separation can be in your life. When your marriage ends, the last thing you want to be worried about is financial difficulties. That is why it is important to get in touch with a Virginia alimony lawyer as soon as possible.

An attorney can protect your rights and best interests during any stage of your divorce and ensure that you are getting the full compensation you deserve, without being taken advantage of.

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How Are Alimony Payments Enforced

When a spouse falls behind on payments, either inadvertently or deliberately, the other party has options to pursue with the courts help.

The most common of these is that Virginia law allows for an income deduction order to be entered by the court, ordering the spouses employer to deduct the appropriate monthly amount due from the employees paycheck.

Failure to pay alimony is disobeying a court order, and this is known as contempt of court.

Other actions a court can take include levies upon real and personal property, garnishment of property, and garnishment of bank accounts and other financial assets.

While its unlikely that a party will be imprisoned for failure to pay alimony because alimony is not considered a debt within the meaning of the Virginia constitution, which protects debtors from imprisonment.

Fighting For Your Spousal Support

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Obtaining spousal support during your divorce could give you the financial stability you need to start over. While it can be tumultuous and emotionally draining, you need to take all of the necessary steps to set yourself up for future success.

You can start by educating yourself about the spousal support you are entitled to in the state of Virginia. If you arm yourself with the knowledge you need about alimony in Virginia, you can fight for your right to spousal support. Then you can be thoroughly prepared for meetings with your attorney.

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What Is Virginia Spousal Support Or Alimony

Virginia spousal support or alimony is a payment from one spouse to the other during the pendency of the divorce and possibly after the Final Order of Divorce has been entered. Spousal support is not guaranteed in any divorce case in Virginia but must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Spousal support issues in the Commonwealth of Virginia arise when parties have been legally married for a significant amount of time and there is a substantial difference between the parties incomes. In most of these cases, the determination of the amount of spousal support payments and the duration of these payments is challenging for both parties. It is especially important to obtain knowledgeable, experienced counsel who can provide a range of possible support received or paid.

New Pendente Lite Guidelines Effective July 1 2020

As stated in the Tax Consequences of Spousal Support section above, the The Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017 changed federal law to eliminate the deductibility of spousal support. This means that new spousal support awards after January 1, 2019 are non-deductible by the payor and non-taxable to the payee. Virginia courts were left to grapple with the proper manner in which to respond to this enormous change in the law.

In response to this change brought about by the TCJA, the Virginia legislature revised the pendente lite spousal support guidelines, effective July 1, 2020. Effective July 1, 2020, the pendente lite spousal support guidelines in Virginia are:

  • Cases With Minor Children: 26% x Payors Income 58% x Payees Income
  • Cases With No Minor Children: 27% x Payors Income 50% x Payees Income

Prior to July 1, 2020, the pendente lite spousal support guidelines were:

  • Cases With Minor Children: 28% x Payors Income 58% x Payees Income
  • Cases With No Minor Children: 30% x Payors Income 50% x Payees IncomeP

Because spousal support payments are no longer taxable income to the payee or tax-deductible by the payor, the new guidelines provide for lower presumptive amounts of pendente lite spousal support.

Note: the revised pendente lite guidelines by themselves do not constitute a material change in circumstances for purposes of modifying an existing spousal support order.

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Temporary Spousal Support/pendente Lite Support

Virginia Code provides that in any case where spousal support is in dispute, a court can enter an order of temporary support until the case concludes. In a temporary spousal support award, the judge ensures the recipient spouse can make ends meet while waiting for the final judgment.

This applies in between divorcing spouses, annulment, and separate maintenance cases in circuit court, as well as spousal support proceedings brought in juvenile and domestic relations district court.

When a pendente lite order ends, the court can order more or less support or no support at all, depending upon the facts of the case.

There are guidelines for determining the presumptive amount of pendente lite spousal support. The guidelines only apply to cases where the parties combined monthly gross income does not exceed $10,000. In a spousal support case like this, the court must look to the factors found in Virginia Code § 20-107.1 to determine any pendente lite spousal support amount.

Under these guidelines, where child and spousal support is payable between the parties, the spousal support is calculated first. The parties incomes are adjusted by the spousal support, and the resulting incomes are used to calculate any pendente lite child support following the child support guidelines.

Periodic Payments For An Undefined Duration

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This alimony is a sum that a spouse or an ex-spouse pays at designated intervals, usually monthly. It is often referred to as open-ended spousal support or permanent spousal support.

The total of this award is uncertain because the payments do not end on a specific date. They end on the occurrence of an event, such as the death of either spouse, remarriage of the spouse receiving support, or possibly if the recipient spouse cohabits in a marriage-like relationship for a year or more.

This type of alimony is awarded in long-term marriages or when a financially dependent spouse has a limited ability to enter or re-enter the workforce.

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How Do I Begin The Process

The process normally begins when the Complaint for Divorce is filed in the Circuit Court or a Petition for Child Support is filed in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. After that, the discovery process will commence, requiring an exchange of financial information, and there will be a child support hearing. At the hearing, each parent will testify and present evidence, and then the court will make a ruling. This can be a very complex process so we suggest having an attorney represent you.

How Long Does Alimony Last In Virginia

It depends on what a judge thinks is appropriate, but under Virginia Code § 20-107.1, the same factors that govern the court in determining an amount of spousal support also govern it in determining the duration of spousal support.

Parties in an alimony action should provide specific reasoning to the court for the amount of spousal support and any set duration of support. Reasons often used are the time it takes a party seeking support to complete school or even the amount of time before minor children are school age.

The burden for defining duration rests with the party who seeks to limit spousal support to a specified term, connecting the length you request to the factors found in the Virginia Code.

While there are no hard and fast rules, a rule of thumb is that a spousal support award is often issued for 50% of the length of the parties marriage. The length is usually interpreted as the date of marriage to the date of separation.

In marriages of over 20 years, discussions are important because the outcome can lead to long-term awards or even awards of permanent alimony that could last a spouses lifetime.

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