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Helping You Get Spousal Support

Getting a divorce is difficult emotionally, and it can be financially strenuous. This is especially true for a party in the marriage who has always been financially dependent upon the other — how will they maintain their established cost of living without their spouse’s income and earnings? The spouse paying spousal support has concerns about how much he or she will be obligated to pay and for how long.

For these couples, seeking spousal support — also called alimony or spousal maintenance — during a divorce may be essential. Nan M. Joseph has represented clients seeking alimony as well as those who are being asked to make alimony payments and has over four decades of experience litigating such issues in the courtroom. If you are seeking divorce and have questions about spousal support/alimony, contact the Law Office of Nan M. Joseph today to schedule a consultation and learn more about the effective legal representation she provides.

How Spousal Support Is Determined In Virginia

Spousal support will be ordered by a court when one party is unable to provide for themselves financially and does not have the means to obtain the employment necessary for adequate income. While parties in a divorce may decide how much should be paid in spousal support/alimony, it is common for parties to disagree. When parties do not agree on how much one spouse should receive (or whether alimony should be paid at all), a judge will make the decision by weighing the following factors found in Virginia Code:

  • The financial needs and financial obligations of each party
  • Each party’s income and assets
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • The mental and physical condition of both parties
  • Any children the couple has and whether their ages make it appropriate for a party to not work
  • The contributions that both parties have made to the family
  • Each party’s earning capacity, including their skills, education and training
  • The ability of the maintenance-seeking party to acquire the education and skills necessary to acquire employment and income
  • The extent to which either party has contributed to the education or employment of the other
  • The tax consequences of a maintenance award for both parties
  • The decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education and parenting arrangements made by the parties during the marriage and their effect on present and future earning potential, including the length of time one or both parties have been absent from the job market
  • Keep in mind that there are certain situations in which permanent spousal support cannot be ordered. As stated in the Virginia Code, if the court finds a party has committed adultery as a ground for divorce, the court may not award permanent spousal support unless special circumstances exist. When ordered, spousal support (temporary or permanent) is usually to be paid once or twice a month.

Permanent Spousal Support

Permanent spousal support can be ordered for a “defined duration” or an “undefined duration.” A defined duration means that at a certain date set by the court, the payments will terminate and the maintenance-paying party will no longer be responsible for making spousal support payments. For example, payments may be “rehabilitative,” meaning that they are designed to last just long enough to give the maintenance-receiving spouse time to acquire their own employment and income.

When payments are undefined, on the other hand, they must be paid until either spouse dies or until the maintenance-receiving spouse remarries or cohabitates for an extended period or until the order is otherwise modified by agreement or further court order if there is a material change in circumstances.

When spousal support is for an “undefined duration,” it means there is no finite end date. However, if a party experiences a change in material circumstances, he/she can petition the court to modify the award vis a vis amount and/or duration. In some cases, spousal support may also be paid in a lump sum. A lump sum payment means that rather than payments being made on an ongoing interval basis, a single, large payment is made (in some cases, it may be paid in installments, but the total amount owed is known rather than being open-ended). Such awards are unusual.

Temporary Spousal Support

If a case for divorce or separate maintenance is filed, a person may ask the court to award temporary spousal support. This is valid only while the divorce is pending and is typically ordered to maintain the status quo. We can help you seek temporary support if you have just filed for divorce or are thinking about filing for divorce.

Modifying A Spousal Support Order

  • If spousal support is determined by a judge, Virginia law permits a party to file a petition with the court to modify the spousal support if there has been a material change in circumstances and the change is warranted.
  • If spousal support is based upon the written agreement of the parties, the court will have the power to consider a petition for modification only if the agreement says the spousal support is modifiable.

Get Or Pay The Amount Of Spousal Support That Is Fair

To truly get or pay the amount of spousal support that is fair via a court order when you and your spouse disagree about what is fair, you will need to provide evidence to the court of your financial picture, including your educational and professional background. In many cases, one issue is whether a person receiving spousal support or paying spousal support is earning as much as he/she can. If a person is unemployed or underemployed and they can earn more, this can be a significant issue.

Our experienced Virginia family law attorney has worked with experts who can evaluate a person’s capacity to earn and testify about that. This can give a judge valuable information to help them make a spousal support decision.

Contact The Law Office Today

Going through a divorce is a challenging experience and can be exacerbated by questions about your financial well-being. Nan M. Joseph is an experienced Virginia spousal support lawyer and is here to do everything she can to protect your best interests, whether you are seeking spousal maintenance or being asked to pay it. She is an experienced family lawyer who has been serving clients in Virginia for decades and truly cares about the outcome of your case.
For your initial consultation, please contact Nan M. Joseph today. You can reach our Leesburg offices by phone at 703-777-7740 or send us an email.


While this website provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call or complete the intake form below.

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