After devoting so much of yourself to your marriage, it’s hard to imagine a new future for yourself. So much of what you’ve earned was earned during the marriage, and it’s difficult to imagine it all being divided. There’s a lot at stake financially, and you want to make sure that you’re aware of all your entitlements.
All divorces are different, but longer marriages have certain things in common. One of the biggest areas where we see differences in longer term marriages (as opposed to shorter marriages) is spousal support. Keep in mind that your situation may be a little bit different, and it’s always a good idea to talk to a divorce and custody attorney about your unique circumstances, and how Virginia law might apply.
Spousal support is a complex area of Virginia law, so you’ll probably need to talk to an attorney to discuss your options, and whether you’ll actually qualify to receive it. When attorneys and judges talk about spousal support, especially when they are analyzing whether a person would qualify to receive it, they are looking at three main points: (1) need verus ability to pay, (2) the statutory factors, and (3) the length of marriage.
The length of marriage really matters when it comes to spousal support determinations, because it helps judges and attorneys determine two things–whether you’ll receive support at all, and, if so, for how long. If you read the statute, you’ll see that the length of marriage is one of the factors listed that affects spousal support, but it’s important for another reason, too. Several years back, the legislature heard a proposal to make a law about the length of marriage and spousal support. The proposal did not pass, but, because of that law, length of marriage has become an important determining factor when it comes to spousal support. It’s not a law, because it didn’t pass, but length of marriage is a presumption that helps lawyers and attorneys determine what is appropriate.
Remember, though, that this is NOT law, so it’s not set in stone. It’s just a presumption, which means that it’s possible to get less, it’s possible to get more–and, depending on your unique situation, it’s possible that you won’t qualify to receive spousal support at all. However, the general presumption is that marriages of this length can qualify to receive support for roughly half the length of the marriage. You should plan to talk to an attorney about your unique case, and, if there are any extenuating circumstances that entitle you to receive support for a longer period of time, you should certainly mention those to your attorney at that time.
All divorces are different, so your specific circumstances may entitle you to receive something else entirely. It’s important to meet with an attorney, whether you choose to move forward with or without an attorney, just to get an idea of what the issues are in your case, so that you can make an informed decision that takes your financial future into account.