When a marriage ends, there is always the possibility of a significant decrease of income for each party, especially if one of the parties made a lot more money than the other. The purpose of spousal support (alimony) is to help alleviate the sudden reduction in income for the more disadvantaged party.
Spousal support can be negotiated between the parties or determined by a judge, and it is usually meant to be temporary, ending after a specified term, remarriage by the party receiving payments, or the death of either spouse. However, a judge can establish permanent support under certain circumstances, such as the supported spouse's inability to become self-supporting.
If the parties cannot reach an agreement for spousal support, the judge is required to take the following factors into consideration, as listed in Va. Code § 20-107.1:
1. The obligations, needs and financial resources of the parties, including but not limited to income from all pension, profit sharing or retirement plans, of whatever nature;
2. The standard of living established during the marriage;
3. The duration of the marriage;
4. The age and physical and mental condition of the parties and any special circumstances of the family;
5. The extent to which the age, physical or mental condition or special circumstances of any child of the parties would make it appropriate that a party not seek employment outside of the home;
6. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
7. The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;
8. The provisions made with regard to the marital property under § 20-107.3;
9. The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity;
10. The opportunity for, ability of, and the time and costs involved for a party to acquire the appropriate education, training and employment to obtain the skills needed to enhance his or her earning ability;
11. 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 of the parties have been absent from the job market;
12. The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party; and
13. Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.
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