The reason we refer to alimony as “spousal support” these days is because it’s more gender neutral. To some women, that’s still a bit of a shocker. It’s true; the idea that a former husband could receive support from his wife is a bit different from what this kind of support was originally intended to do. In the olden days, because women couldn’t really work outside the home (or, in later years, because when they did work, they earned so much less than their male counterparts), they desperately needed support after divorce. In those days, support was more about a continuing legal obligation that a husband had to care for his wife, especially since she had no ability to do it for herself. Today, it seems like the ideology behind a support obligation is more like equalizing unequal earning potential between two spouses.
A wife can be responsible for providing support to her husband post-divorce just like a husband can be responsible for providing support to his ex-wife. It’s a modern concept for sure. But how do you know when you might be one of the women who unexpectedly finds herself with a duty to support children AND an ex-husband?
Well, first and foremost, spousal support is based on need and ability to pay. It’s usually easy to establish a need. Ability to pay means that one party has to make significantly more than the other. If you don’t make significantly more than your husband, you won’t have to pay spousal support, and the analysis stops there.
After that point, you’ll have to look at the statutory factors regarding spousal support. You can check them out by clicking here. What’s important is to look at those 13 listed factors included right in the text of the statute; they include things like the standard of living established during the marriage, and the decisions made by the parties with respect to how they wanted their family to function. Your husband will have to make an argument, based on these factors, about why he deserves support.
Lastly, the length of the marriage also affects the duration of a spousal support award. Generally speaking, the shorter the marriage, the shorter the duration of spousal support. In most cases, you won’t receive support for longer than the amount of time you’ve been married—unless it’s a very long term marriage.
Unlike child support, there is no specific formula for determining spousal support in Virginia, so keep in mind that there is a great deal of room for negotiation here. For more information about spousal support, or to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys, call (757) 425-5200.