When a couple dissolves their marriage, support for a dependent spouse, also called alimony, is often appropriate to prevent financial hardship for one spouse and unjust enrichment for the other. There are several ways to create an obligation to pay alimony:
- A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement might contain a stipulation for alimony.
- Couples may reach an alimony agreement as part of a negotiated settlement.
- The court can order spousal support.
Of course, before you enter into any agreement on alimony, or try the issue as part of a divorce, it’s important to understand the rules. Here in West Virginia, there are four classes of alimony:
- Permanent spousal support — This is an award of support for the lifetime of the recipient.
- Temporary spousal support, or pendente lite — This support order is in force during the divorce process and lasts until the court issues a final divorce decree.
- Rehabilitative spousal support — This type of alimony is a short-term provision to allow a dependent spouse to get additional education or job training to become self-supporting.
- Spousal support in gross — This is a set amount, paid in a lump sum or installments, appropriate as a sort of restitution for financial sacrifices a dependent spouse made during the marriage.
In deciding whether to award alimony, the court does not consider the genders of the spouses, but does weigh 20 statutory factors, which include:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of the parties
- Each party’s education level and ability to earn income
- A dependent spouse’s role as primary custodian of children during the marriage
West Virginia courts are allowed to consider marital misconduct, such as adultery when deciding to award alimony. A court can order the supporting spouse to pay from income or from wealth, but cannot order payments that are “disproportionate to a party’s ability to pay.”
Whether you pay or receive alimony, how you resolve this issue is vitally important to your future financial security. For knowledgeable and effective divorce representation, consult an experienced family law attorney at Kaufman & McPherson, PLLC.