We may not always think of things this way, but when two people are married, they have financial obligations to each other. Even if they don’t share bank accounts, they must find a way to work as a team to pay for their housing, living expenses, medical care and all the other daily costs. In most cases, this means one spouse ends up paying more than the other for the family’s living expenses.
These costs of living don’t disappear if the couple later decides to divorce. In fact, they will likely go up, considering that the parties must pay for two homes instead of one. This can put one of the spouses at a distinct disadvantage after a divorce.
For instance, if one spouse worked full-time and earned enough to pay for the family’s living expenses while the other spouse stayed home to raise the couple’s children, a divorce will lead to an unequal result. The working spouse can keep working, but the stay-at-home spouse will have to go out and find a job — perhaps after years of being out of the job market. It will be difficult or impossible for them to be able to afford anything close to the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage.
One way to deal with this situation is through spousal support.
Temporary or permanent
Also known as alimony, spousal support consists of payment from one ex-spouse to the other. Under Virginia law, the payment may come in a lump sum or in periodic payments, and periodic payments may be durational or permanent.
The parties may agree to the terms of spousal support themselves in their divorce settlement, or a court may order one spouse to pay support to the other.
Durational alimony consists of regular payments made for a set time period. For instance, one spouse may be ordered to pay support to the other for four years, giving the dependent spouse time to finish their education or otherwise become more capable of becoming financially independent.
Permanent alimony is somewhat misnamed. This type of order doesn’t necessarily last forever, but it is not set to expire after a certain time period.
In any case, a spousal support obligation ends upon the death of either party, the remarriage of the receiving party, or if the receiving party has been cohabiting with a romantic partner for more than a year.
Either spouse may request a modification to a support order if they can show significantly changed circumstances that merit a modification.