How to Calculate Alimony in Virginia

By Timothea Xi

Updated November 18, 2017

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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 Virginia divorce alimony, a 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

A Virginia alimony formula is subject to change. The 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. If there are minor children, the amount of support is 28 percent of the gross income of the spouse with higher income, subtracted by 58 percent of the gross income of the spouse with lower income. If there are no minors, 28 percent goes up to 30 percent, and 58 percent goes down to 50 percent. That means a higher amount of spousal support is awarded since there's no need for child support.

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.