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Spousal support: Should you ask for it?

Spousal support is an option for some people who are going through a divorce. It is money that will be paid by one spouse to another after they divorce or separate. The money, which can be called maintenance, alimony or spousal support, is meant to provide a short-term financial boost to the in-need spouse.

There are few times when spousal support is permanent, however, it is possible in some long-term marriages and particularly for divorces that occur late in life.

How do you know if you qualify for alimony?

To start with, it is the spouse who earns less who may qualify for spousal support. Not everyone will qualify, but by answering some simple questions, you can find out if you may have the right to alimony. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Are you currently employed?
  • How much do you earn per month or year?
  • How long have you been employed?
  • What education do you have?
  • Which jobs did you hold before marriage?
  • Are you in good health?
  • Did you support your spouse while they obtained professional training or an advanced degree?
  • Did you stop working while you were married to support your spouse's career, business or professional development?
  • Do you plan to get a job after your divorce?
  • How much are your expenses following divorce?

By answering questions like these, you'll quickly be able to note if you need to seek support. If your earnings are not high enough to support your expenses, then spousal support might be requested until your career can advance enough to allow you to live comfortably.

Here's an example. If Jenny and Eliot are married and Jenny makes $100,000 while Eliot makes $25,000, there is a serious discrepancy in their incomes. If Eliot has to move out of the home and take on his own expenses, then $25,000 may not cover everything. To help him adjust, Jenny may have to pay spousal support for a few years while he improves his career. How much she is ordered to pay would vary based on the situation, but something like $25,000 a year in spousal support would boost Eliot's income enough to live comfortably. Even $15,000 may be enough.

If you want to seek alimony, it's smart to talk to your attorney about whether you qualify and how much you can expect to receive. Good help with negotiations goes a distance when seeking spousal support in Virginia.

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