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How the court calculates spousal support

On Behalf of | Dec 2, 2021 | Alimony, blog, Divorce

Virginia courts determine the proper monetary amounts for spousal support, or alimony as it’s called in other states. There are specific guidelines and criteria that the courts use to make assessments.

Factors the court considers

Each divorce and alimony decree is unique. The judge will account for a range of factors that include the needs and circumstances of each spouse, finances, length of the marriage and what’s contributing to the dissolution. The judge looks at:

  • Whether there will be an award of spousal support
  • How much the amount will be
  • A determination of time for the award to last
  • Whether the award is modifiable
  • The income of both parties
  • Duration of the union
  • Standard of living set during the marriage

Virginia Code § 20-107.1 states that an important factor is “the decisions…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.”

“Presumptive” decisions

In Code § 16.1-278.17:1, you can find a formula for “presumptive,” or potential, amounts. In general, the formula says the court can use the following criteria for a starting point:

  • 30% of the payor’s gross income less 50% of the gross income of the payee, if there are no minor children
  • 28% of the payor’s gross income less 58% of payee gross income where there are minor children

Spousal support in Virginia is often open to interpretation because every matter is subject to the court’s reasoning based on the circumstances. This doesn’t negate knowing how the system works if you want to work toward the best-case scenario.


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