How Does a Long-Term Marriage Influence Spousal Support Decisions in Virginia?

In every divorce case, the determination of spousal support (also known as alimony or spousal maintenance) is unique to that particular case. While there are several factors that figure into the decision-making on whether to award spousal support, there are a few critical questions asked in nearly every case:
Is spousal support necessary, given the circumstances?
If so, how much alimony should be awarded?
And how long should the spousal support last for? What should be the defined cutoff point?

Among the many factors that will be weighed when making these decisions is the duration of the marriage. Yes, if it was a long-lasting marriage, that can certainly influence spousal support decisions made by the judge overseeing your case.

Typically, the longer the marriage, the more likely it is that the courts will require spousal support to be paid to the spouse who earns less. Additionally, long-term marriages can also affect the duration of spousal support, meaning that alimony can last longer if the marriage that preceded the divorce lasted many years.

In part, the thinking is that one spouse or the other might have made sacrifices in those 20-some years – such as giving up career advancement in order to look after the family, not going to college, or being a stay-at-home parent – and that those acts should be awarded.

Whether you’re looking to obtain spousal support or you’re trying to avoid paying an unfair amount, please get in touch with our law firm. Our Virginia-based spousal support lawyers can provide valuable legal services while you face these challenging concerns.

Is Alimony Guaranteed in Divorces After a Long-Term Marital Union?

Spousal support is not awarded in every divorce case, regardless of the length of the marriage. Do not proceed with the assumption that alimony is something that’s guaranteed. Several factors – such as perhaps both spouses are independently wealthy, or there was abuse in the household – may cancel out the need to award spousal support.

How Long Must a Marriage Last to Get Spousal Support?

Generally, a long-term marriage is any marital union that lasts 20 years or more. Likewise, a short-term marriage is any union that lasts less than a decade.

Nowhere in Virginia state law does it say that the length of marriage determines the spousal support following a divorce. So, a marriage needn’t last long to potentially result in alimony after divorce. That said, as previously established, the length of a marriage can be figured into a judge’s decision-making. If your marriage was ‘too short’ for spousal support by the judge’s estimation, then the matter may be avoided entirely.

What Other Factors May Influence Alimony?

In addition to the marriage duration, several other factors may influence decisions on spousal maintenance, including:

  • Big decisions made during marriage that affected both spouses.
  • Earning capacity of both parties.
  • Financial situation of either party.
  • Grounds for divorce.
  • How much one party has contributed financially to the other’s education, social status, or career.
  • Legal status of shared or individually owned real property.
  • Monetary and non-monetary contributions made to the family during marriage.
  • Standards of living during the marriage.
  • The needs, obligations, and debts of either party.
  • The physical and mental conditions of either party.

    How Long Might Virginia Spousal Support Last?

    When the alimony agreement is made, the judge will decide if or when that support ends. In Virginia, paying spousal support for the remainder of your life is possible.

    Certain life happenings may end the need for spousal support, however, such as a dramatic change in the other spouse’s finances and the recipient spouse’s death. Alimony can also end once the ex-spouse who is receiving the support remarries.

    Schedule Your Initial Consultation with Our Law Firm’s Experienced Spousal Support Lawyers

    The Law Office of Seth C. Weston is home to a skilled legal team with years of experience helping clients through the emotionally challenging and legally complex workings of divorce. Remember, you don’t need to go down this road alone. We’re here to help.

    To speak with a alimony rights lawyer in Virginia about your case, please call our Roanoke-based law offices at (540)-384-4585.