When will he start paying me child and spousal support? It’s a question we hear all the time. Financially, divorce can be complicated. In most cases, even in cases where there’s plenty of money, there’s some nervousness and confusion when it comes to how everything will be divided. Even though, in the Virginia Code, the provisions relating to spousal support refer specifically to the standard of living established during the marriage, most people realize that it’s really pretty impossible to actually be able to maintain the same standard of living after divorce.
After all, in a divorce, everything is divided. It doesn’t really matter exactly how it’s divided, but the truth of the matter is that the income that was formerly used to support one household will, after divorce, be used to support two. Whether both parties work or one party works and the other stays at home, there is less to go around. Instead of one mortgage, there will be two—and the same goes for electric bills, cable, water, and internet. It also goes for health insurance (at least as far as husband and wife are concerned; the kids will be on one party’s insurance or the other’s), car insurance, cell phone bills, and more. Besides that, even the “little” things like groceries will be more expensive (because, as you probably are already aware, it doesn’t cost much more, if anything, to cook for 4 people than for 3, and shopping and/or cooking for 1 is just ridiculous).
If you’re like most women, you’ve got the kids with you. You’ve also got less income, even if you’re working, if only because you go to such pains to priorities the children’s needs above your own. New shoes and fees for extracurricular activities or summer camps can cut into a single income household’s budget like crazy.
When will he start paying child and spousal support?
If you’re like most women, you’ve started to wonder about support. When will he start paying child and spousal support? You’re wondering how much you’ll receive, and when it will start. You’re wondering how long you’ll receive it, and whether he’ll be able to terminate it later on. You’re wondering a lot of things, and you’re not alone. And, conveniently for you, that’s why I’m writing today—to give you an idea of what you can expect when it comes to support.
Child support is easy. It’s based on a formula.
There are two different formulas that can be applied, depending on how custody is handled in your case. In a primary physical custody scenario, you’ll receive the maximum child support. Primary physical custody is when the non custodial parent (the parent who has the child less) has 89 or fewer days with the child in a calendar year. In a shared physical custody scenario, on the other hand, child support changes depending on how much time the non custodial parent has with the child. In shared physical custody cases, the non custodial parent has 90 or more days with the child in a calendar year. Shared custody can include a number of different arrangements; it doesn’t necessarily mean that you split the year in half with each parent getting 182.5 days with the child each year (though it can mean that!). If you have shared physical custody, the amount of time that the noncustodial parent has the child affects how much support will be received. The theory here is that the more time the non custodial parent has with the child, the more he (or she) will share in the day to day expenses. He will then be paying for more of the child’s meals and extra needs by virtue of the fact that he spends more time with the child under shared physical custody. Financially, shared physical custody cuts the non custodial parent a little bit of slack.
Most of the time, the parent who has the child more is the one who will receive support. However, in extraordinary situations (like where one party earns astronomically more than the other but still has the kids), it is possible for the non custodial parent to receive support from the custodial parent.
You can request child support in a couple of different ways. Whether your case is part of an underlying divorce or not (like if, for example, you were never married to your child’s father or you don’t plan to divorce but you want child support awarded), you can file for custody, visitation, and child support in the juvenile and domestic relations district court.
If you don’t like the result you got in the juvenile court, you can appeal the decision to the circuit court to be heard again. Likewise, if your case is part of an underlying divorce, you will have custody, visitation, and child support determined in the circuit court as part of your divorce.
If you’re getting divorced but aren’t pursuing an in-court divorce, you can determine custody, visitation, and child support in your separation agreement.
You won’t start to receive child support until it is either awarded by the judge at the juvenile or circuit court levels, or until you reach an agreement with respect to child support in your separation agreement.
Why? Well, because, until then, the court has no idea that your children need a court order for child support. Before that, there’s no reason at all for the court to suspect that you’re not both supporting the child. And, until you either have a court order or a signed agreement with respect to support, there’s no support.
The silver lining? Once you file for child support, the judge can award it retroactively from the date you filed. So, say you filed for support back in March, and you’ve had a number of continuances or issues that have gotten in the way, and your ex has certainly dragged his feet as well. By the time you actually get into court, you can ask that support be awarded from March onward, so you don’t lose any of that time—even though you won’t receive any of it until after your court date.
Spousal support is different from child support. It’s nowhere near as easy. Unlike child support, spousal support is not guaranteed. For more information about spousal support or to determine whether it might be awarded in your case, click here. I’d like to go into all of that, but it just becomes too much for this one article.
Spousal support is not based on a formula, and it’s not automatically awarded. It’s not awarded for a specific period of time or in a specific, easily determinable dollar amount. For the purposes of our discussion today, though, let’s just assume you will receive spousal support. When will you be paid support for the first time?
How to petition for spousal support
Like child support, you’ve got to file for spousal support—either in the juvenile court or in the circuit court.
Like child support, you’ve also got to go through the judicial process first in order to get it awarded.
Bottom line: in order to receive support, you’ll have to either (1) go to court and have a judge order that support be paid, or (2) negotiate and sign an agreement that specifies that you will receive spousal support. I suppose, if we’re being technical, there is a third possibility: your husband could, out of the goodness of his heart, pay support to you before the judge orders support or an agreement is signed and negotiated with respect to support.
That whole “out of the goodness of his heart” thing doesn’t sound like your husband? Join the club; most husbands aren’t willing to just fork out support before someone (like a judge) or something (like a separation agreement) tells him that he has to. Is it fair? From your perspective, probably not. But if you think like a judge, it makes sense. Before you go to court and argue about whether you’ll receive support (and, if so, how much), you’re much like any other happily married couple. Do most people have spousal support awards? No, of course not—because married couples typically take care of each other. Until that award is in place, there’s nothing forcing anyone to support anyone else—it’s sort of presumed that’s already what you’re doing.
Child and spousal support are similar in a lot of ways, and very different in others. For more information about your rights and entitlements to support, including when you can expect him to start paying child and spousal support, or to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce attorneys, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.