Equitable Distribution – Alimony

Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution is the distribution of debt and property obligations divided between spouses during divorce proceedings. In order to make a fair distribution, the court will look at the financial security of each spouse after the termination of the marriage. Under Virginia law, the court must consider all financial and non-financial contributions that both parties made to the marriage. A couple may settle their property division through creating a property settlement agreement. If the couple cannot come to an agreement, the court will assist in making those decisions for you.

How Does the Court Determine Equitable Distribution?

The courts than determine what is real and personal property for the couple. This could be property such as, jewelry, their current residence, other real estate, bank or credit union accounts, furniture, paintings, automobiles, business assets, and other types of property created by both or either spouse during the marriage. There are certain steps that must be followed during the determination, these include:

  • Determining the Character of Property: Marital or Separate – Marital property is all property acquired during the marriage. Separate property is all property before the marriage, after the marriage, or inherited. Marital property can be distributed between spouses while separate property is kept by the spouse who owns it.
  • Property Values – The court sets the value for what mutual property and assets of the spouses would cost if it was sold today rather than what the originally paid.
  • Dividing the Property – The final step is for the court to decide who gets what by taking into account each spouse’s interests and rights.



Alimony – or spousal support – is a husband’s or wife’s court-ordered periodic payments for a spouse after separation or divorce. Spousal support isn’t meant to be a punishment. It’s to help the individual in the relationship who isn’t as financially independent. The amount awarded for support depends upon such factors as:

  • the Age of the Parties
  • the Earnings of Each Party
  • How Long They Were Married


Who Decides Alimony Support?

When a couple gets a divorce, alimony may be awarded to one of the former spouses based on an agreement between the couple or a decision by the court. The purpose of alimony is to ensure that the spouse who has a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning income is not economically limited after the divorce and is provided a continuing income. Under Virginia law, a married couple is financially responsible for one another and they are both responsible for one another’s debts.

Married couples in Virginia are free to make their own decisions about awarding each other alimony. The only requirement is that the decisions are the result of free and open negotiation and are fair to both parties. If the couple earn similar salaries then they may decide against spousal support. However, circumstances may be more complicated if one spouse is at a disadvantage in terms of being able to self-support. At this point, the agreement of alimony is negotiated and determined. If the couple cannot come to an agreement, the court may make the decision of determining if alimony is necessary, what the amount would be, the duration of alimony, and the manner of payment.

Can Spousal Support Be Modified or Terminated?

If alimony was decided by the court, it can only be modified by the court. There would be proof of material changes in circumstances since spousal support was established and that modification is necessary according to the new circumstances. This would determine whether or not payments would increase or decrease.

If spousal support was originally established through a separation agreement between the parties, the courts would view this in their determination.  If the separation agreement did not address changes concerning spousal support, then it’s highly unlikely to be modified. The court may increase or decrease the amount of spousal support if both parties agree to changes come to an agreement.

Termination of spousal support can happen if either party dies, if the party receiving spousal support remarries, or if the court finds that the spouse receiving spousal support has been living with another person in a relationship comparable to marriage for more than one year

Contact the Virginia Alimony Attorneys at Riley Law, PLLC

There are many factors to consider in regards to alimony/spousal support. If you are seeking more information or need assistance, call the family law attorneys with Riley Law, PLLC today at (757) 851-3888.

We have litigated an extensive history of family law cases in all surrounding Hampton Roads court jurisdictions including the Virginia Peninsula cities and counties of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson/York County, Williamsburg; all Southside courts in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk and Isle of Wight.

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