There’s a lot at stake in your marriage after twenty years or more, especially since you have so many shared assets and investments. At this stage in the game, every little bit helps–you’ll have some time post-divorce to rebuild, but a good bit of the retirement planning you’ve done up until this point is going to have to build the foundation for your after-divorce life, too.
Long term marriages present a lot of unique issues. You and your husband have been together for a long time, so now almost everything that you own is marital property. It’s a little more complicated to separate everything. Just think about all your joint assets and liabilities: you own real estate, retirement accounts, furniture, cars, bank accounts, investments, and probably lots more.
Long term marriages are different from short term marriages in lots of ways. Probably the biggest difference we see between short and long term marriage is in the area of spousal support. We’ll talk a little bit about how spousal support works in a long term marriage, but keep in mind that no two divorces are exactly the same, and it’s always a good idea to talk to an attorney to figure out how the law might apply in your specific situation.
To determine whether you’ll receive spousal support, and for how long, you have to look at three things: (1) need and ability to pay, (2) the statutory factors, and (3) the length of marriage. The first two factors, need versus ability to pay and the statutory factors, help determine whether an award of spousal support would be made. The third factor, length of marriage, is the most important, because it determines two things: (1) whether an award of spousal support would be made, and (2) how long spousal support could be received.
The last prong of the test, length of marriage, is the most important. Because your marriage is long term, it does support an award of spousal support (assuming, of course, that the other two prongs of the test have been met).
The length of your marriage matters a lot when it comes to determining how long your award of spousal support should be. Most Virginia judges and lawyers would agree that a long term marriage probably warrants a spousal support award (though, you should note that this is not the law, just a presumption) of between half the length of the marriage to permanent spousal support.
Of course, all divorces are different, and your case may present unique issues that affect spousal support. Because there is so much at stake financially, it’s important that you talk to a licensed Virginia divorce and custody attorney and come up with a custom tailored plan designed to help protect your assets.