Alimony and Child Support
A key component of any divorce or separation is the financial consequences; what will my life look like if/when we separate? How much will I have to pay? Will I be able to live on what I receive? These are stressful and complicated questions that require an attorney who will give you answers to your questions and the results you are looking for.
Alimony, or spousal support, is an option for parties seeking a divorce. Unlike child support, in which the child has a right to the support, spousal support is completely conditional on the specific circumstances at hand.
When child support is sought along with spousal support and the equitable distributions of property, the court must determine these issues in the proper sequence: (1) Equitable distribution, (2) Spousal Support, and (3) Child support. The reason for this is that the equitable distribution decision may impact the spousal support and that the amount of spousal support has an impact in the amount of child support.
Spousal Support may take three different forms (or any combination of the three):
- Periodic payments for a defined duration
- Periodic payments for an undefined duration
- Lump sum award.
Factors that a court will use to determine the nature, amount, and duration of an award of support:
- Obligations, needs, and financial resources of the parties;
- Standard of living established during the marriage;
- Duration of the marriage;
- Age and physical or mental condition of the parties;
- Contributions, monetarily and non monetarily, of each party to the well-being of the family;
- Property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;
- Provisions with regards to marital property per the equitable distribution resolution;
- Earning capacity, including skills, education, and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity;
- Decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education, and parenting arrangements during the marriage and their effect on present and future earning potential, including the length of time one or both of the parties have been absent from the job market;
- Extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position, or profession of the other party;
- Other factors including tax consequences and factors that contributed to the dissolution, specifically including any ground for divorce; and
- Whether the retirement of either party was contemplated.
Support During Case Before a Final Order is Entered
The Court may order support (child or spousal or both) during the pendency of the case based on a formula, though this has no presumptive effect when adjudicating the underlying spousal support petition. This is referred to as Pendente Lite Relief. As an example, if the parties have no minor children, the presumptive amount of the award will be the difference between 27 percent of the payor’s gross income and 50 percent of the payee’s monthly gross income.
Additionally, the Court may order several different types of relief in addition to spousal and child support, including health care coverage for the children and/or spouse, cash for medical support, an order directing a party to pay specific debts, exclusive use and possession of the family residence, and funds to support the litigation.
Duration – Child support will last until the child is over the age of 18 who is a full time high school student; not self-supporting; and living in the home of the party seeking or receiving child support until the child reaches the age of 19 or graduates from high school, whichever come first.
Amount – In Virginia, there are mathematical guidelines that produce a presumptively correct amount for a child support award contained in Virginia Code 20-108.2. (It should be noted that an initial child support order entered by the court shall be retroactive to the date when the initial pleading was filed provided there was due diligence in obtaining service.) The basic monthly child support need is determined via the formula and then financial adjustments are made based on the amount of time the child/children spend with each parent and the varying custody arrangements for individual children.
Once the court has determined the presumptively correct amount of child support, it may address the following (non-exclusive) factors to rebut the presumption:
- Actual monetary support for other family members or former family members;
- Arrangements regarding custody of the children, including costs of travel;
- Imputed income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, provided that income may not be imputed to the custodial parent when a child is not in school, child care services are not available, and the cost of child care services is not included in the computation.
- Special Need of a child;
- Debts of either child arising during the marriage for the benefit of the child;
- Independent financial resources of their child or children;
- Standard of living for the child or children established during the marriage;
- Earning capacity, obligations, financial resources, and special needs of each parent;
- Tax consequences to the parties including claims for exemptions, child tax credits, and child care credits for dependent children;
- Written agreements, stipulations, consent orders, or decrees between the parties that includes the amount of child support; and
- Any other factors as are necessary to consider equities for the parents and children.
Determination of child and spousal support can be complex calculation and you need an advocate on your side who can give you answers and get you the results you are entitled to under Virginia law. Do not hesitate to reach out to me for your free consultation. Protect your rights. Get Answers. Get Results.