Virginia Spousal Support: Spouse’s Needs vs. Children’s Needs

SpouseVs.ChildNeedsIn contentious divorce and support cases, the court must determine the amount of money to be paid monthly for both spousal support (alimony) and child support. When it comes to child support, the court is required to follow the child support guidelines set forth in the Virginia Code. However, the court can exercise greater discretion in awarding alimony.

Typically, the spouse requesting alimony must submit a worksheet to the court reflecting his or her income and expenses in order to prove a need for support. Often times, these worksheets include grossly exaggerated expenses to increase the amount of money awarded.

Additionally, these worksheets may include expenses associated with someone other than the spouse, such as costs associated with raising children and amounts paid on behalf of the children or other third parties. In these cases, the question then becomes what should a court do when determining spousal support where listed expenses are associated with both the spouse and the children?

In DeCamp v. DeCamp, the Virginia Court of Appeals answered this question as follows:

  1. If the particular expense at issue is divisible, then the spouse seeking support has the obligation of apportioning his or her expenses from those of the children or other third parties. If he or she fails to do so, then the court may find that he or she has failed to introduce sufficient evidence of their need apart from the needs of others, which will lead to a decreased amount of spousal support awarded.
  2. If the expense is indivisible by nature, then the spouse requesting support need not apportion the cost between themselves and the children. For example, because it is practically impossible to parse out the amount of water used by one person in a household on the water bill, it is appropriate for the court to consider the entire water bill the spouse’s expense (and not the children’s) in awarding alimony.
  3. Finally, if the expense at issue is “trivial,” then it also does not need to be divided amongst the spouse and the children. The court can award this expense as spousal support without committing any error.

There are a number of issues and financial considerations to be aware of during a divorce and child/spousal support cases. If you are currently going through a support case or are considering divorce, the family law attorneys at DiPietro Family Law Group are here for you. Call us today at (703) 370 – 5555.

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