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How Does The Court Decide The Amount Of Spousal Support Or Alimony?

On Behalf of | Jan 18, 2019 | Spousal Support |

In Virginia, spousal support or alimony is determined by a Court using the following factors which are set forth in the spousal support statute, called Virginia Code Section 107.3. I will quote the statute’s factors. A court is bound to consider the follow factors below.

I send a copy of the factors that the Court considers to determine alimony to my clients early in the case. This way you can start thinking and compiling evidence to address each factor. Think of these factors as the skeleton-the underlying structure or the legal elements relating to spousal support. The party seeking spousal support or opposing spousal support must know these factors or legal elements.

Legal elements are a set of facts that must be presented to a Judge to prove your case for or against spousal support. You must supply the facts that address each factor.

It is the party and his or her lawyer’s job to prepare evidence relating to each of the factors. I like to think of the evidence as the muscles that go onto the skeleton. You must take each factor and put the muscle on the bone. That is, think of and present every fact, event, circumstance, witness, document that supports each legal factor or element for or against spousal support. This is a painstaking process. It requires a lot of thought. The more relevant facts that you present, the stronger your case is. In future blogs, I will review the elements for spousal support. For now, I want to you to review and start considering the legal elements You need to know what a court must consider when determining spousal support. What follows is the Virginia statute that sets forth the factors the court must consider.

Note the first paragraph before the numbered list of factors. It provides that the court before determining whether to award spousal support shall consider the circumstances and factors that led to the marital breakdown. The statute lists alimony and other fault grounds, such as desertion and cruelty. I will discuss this in future blogs.

Once the court determines that spousal support should be ordered, then the judge shall consider the numbered factors.


The court, in determining whether to award support and maintenance for a spouse, shall consider the circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including adultery and any other ground for divorce under the provisions of subdivision A (3) or (6) of § 20-91 or § 20-95. In determining the nature, amount and duration of an award pursuant to this section, the court shall consider the following:

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 and the circumstances and factors that contributed to the dissolution, specifically including any ground for divorce, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.


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