Astronomically High Spousal Support: Ellis v. Ellis

Under Virginia law, the primary consideration taken into account when determining how much spousal support or alimony to award is one party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay. However, the court must take into consideration all of the factors enumerated in Section 20-107.1 of the Virginia Code, which include: the length of the marriage, decisions made by the parties concerning employment, career(s), economics, education and parenting arrangements during the marriage, and the financial needs, obligations and resources of the parties. The court may also have to consider certain case law that favors certain factors over others (for example, the standard of living that was established during the marriage). As you can see, determining the appropriate amount of alimony to be paid is not so cut and dry and can become confusing.

Here are the relevant facts of that case:

The parties were married in 2003, and had three (3) healthy children. The wife did not work and was a stay-at-home mom throughout the marriage. In 2015, the couple decided to get a divorce and while the case was pending, the children were living with the husband. The husband did work, and made $1.8 million per year. He agreed to pay $6,000 per month to the wife’s credit cards while the divorce was pending, as well as an additional $15,000 for the wife to relocate.

When determining the amount of temporary spousal support to award the wife, the court found that the $6,000 per month towards the credit cards was not enough, so the judge ordered the husband to pay an an added $15,000 per month to the wife. The wife was awarded $21,000 per month as spousal support while the divorce was pending. To put this in perspective, this award of $21,000 for a single adult is nearly three (3) times the amount the Virginia Legislature presumes would be appropriate child support for three (3) children!

So what was the court thinking? The court reasoned that the additional $15,000 per month was only 10% of the husband’s monthly income so it was very easy for him to pay this amount. The court also stated that $21,000 should be more than adequate to pay the wife’s expenses (I sure hope so)! Finally, the court ruled that because the amount of alimony was so high, the wife was not entitled to attorney’s or expert witness’ fees from the husband.

As you can see, there are many considerations that must be factored into an alimony or spousal support award, and depending on your and your spouse’s financial situation, one or more of these factors may weigh more heavily than others. If you are considering divorce, have questions or concerns about seeking alimony or any other family law matter, you should speak with a qualified family lawyer as soon as possible. The family lawyers of the DiPietro Family Law Group have decades of experience with all family law issues in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Contact us today for a consultation at (703) 370 – 5555.

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