Money and scale of justiceThis is the next post in my series discussing how child support laws are applied to Virginia Beach family law cases. My last post explained the conditions under which a judge may vary from Virginia’s standard child support formula. In this post I will explain how the award of spousal support is affected by one’s child support payments.

Unlike child support, spousal support is not guaranteed to all Virginia spouses

Unlike child support, spousal support is not guaranteed during a divorce. Child support will always be the first priority of the judge. Support checks are meant to go towards the care of the child in the form of food, clothing, medical care, educational supplies, etc. Spousal support on the other hand is a subject upon which the Court will exercise greater discretion depending on the financial situation of the couple. For a lower income couple, spousal support may be used to help pay rent and bills. If a couple lived a very lavish lifestyle a spouse may be awarded spousal support in order to help maintain the lifestyle which they have become accustomed to. Once ordered, a Judge will often not be concerned with how the spousal support is spent; this also means that they will be much more conservative in ordering a payment to begin with.

Virginia awards spousal support based on a number of factors including the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of the spouse that needs to be supported, the couple’s lifestyle, the number of years a spouse has been out of the workforce, etc. The income level of the spouse who earns more money is also a factor. A judge will not order a spouse to pay spousal support that they truly cannot afford. This means that if one’s child support payments are already high, the spouse may not have the finances available to pay spousal support.

Spouses may negotiate to keep other assets in lieu of spousal support

The bottom line is that if a couple has multiple children, and a spouse cannot afford to make monthly payments beyond what is already ordered, spousal support may be off of the table. But that does not mean that a spouse who would otherwise be awarded spousal support will be left empty handed. When one spouse cannot afford to make monthly spousal support payments on top of child support, one’s family law attorney may be able to negotiate the acquisition of other assets instead. For example, a spouse may agree to waive spousal support rights in exchange for the right to live in a fully paid for home free and clear. Or the spouse may wish to retain ownership of multiple vehicles, retain ownership of stock options, etc. Hiring the services of an experienced family law attorney can ensure that one who deserves spousal support receives a fair portion of the assets, even if their former partner is unable to make monthly payments on top of child support.

If you are going through a divorce and are concerned over whether or not you will receive child support, it is important to consult with an attorney right away. Contact our law office today for a consultation.