Divorce is an emotional and stressful process that often involves many legal and financial complexities. One of the most contentious issues in a divorce is spousal support, which refers to the financial assistance paid by one spouse to the other after separation or divorce. In most states, including Virginia, spousal support is based on various factors such as income, expenses, duration of the marriage, and the standard of living during the marriage. However, many divorcing couples ask whether a cheating spouse affects spousal support in Virginia. In this blog post, we’ll explore this topic in detail and shed light on its legal implications.
In Virginia, adultery is a fault-based ground for divorce, which means that if one spouse can prove that the other spouse committed adultery, then they may have an advantage in the divorce proceedings. However, adultery does not automatically affect spousal support in Virginia. According to the Virginia Code § 20-107.1, the court may look at “the circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage” when considering spousal support. This means that if the cheating spouse’s behavior caused the breakdown of the marriage and contributed to financial harm to the other spouse, then the court may consider reducing or denying spousal support.
It’s essential to note that proving adultery can be challenging in Virginia, as the legal standard requires more than just evidence of infidelity. The cheating spouse’s conduct must have been both sexual and egregious, meaning that it must have been open and notorious and had a considerable impact on the innocent spouse. Moreover, the innocent spouse can also waive the right to spousal support by condoning or forgiving the adultery after knowing about it.
Another important factor in determining spousal support is the financial need and ability of each spouse. The court looks at the income, property, debts, and expenses of both spouses and decides whether financial support is necessary and feasible. If both spouses have similar incomes and assets, then the court may award temporary or no spousal support. Conversely, if one spouse has a higher income and assets than the other, then the court may award permanent or rehabilitative spousal support to help the lower-earning spouse maintain their standard of living and become self-sufficient.
Moreover, spousal support in Virginia is modifiable, which means that either spouse can request a modification or termination of spousal support based on a significant change in circumstances, such as job loss, retirement, illness, or remarriage. If the cheating spouse’s behavior caused such a change, then the innocent spouse may have a stronger case for modifying or terminating spousal support.
In conclusion, a cheating spouse does not automatically affect spousal support in Virginia, but it can be a factor depending on the circumstances of the marriage and the harm caused by the infidelity. The court typically considers various factors when determining spousal support, such as the financial need and ability of each spouse, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living during the marriage. If you are divorcing and have concerns about spousal support, it’s essential to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the legal process and protect your interests. Our divorce lawyers at Mahoney Richmond Thurston, PLLC, are prepared to guide you through your case.