My Spouse Moved Out. How Can I Get Emergency Support?

Patricia TichenorLegal

separated couple agreeing to temporary spousal support

Going through a divorce is never easy. Even in the best possible circumstances, the emotional and financial burdens of legal separation can feel extremely overwhelming.

Sometimes, a spouse will move out before you’ve agreed on terms for support payments, which may catch you off-guard and leave you unprepared to provide for yourself and your family. If you find yourself in this difficult position, here’s what you need to know about obtaining emergency spousal support in Virginia.

What is temporary (or emergency) alimony?

In an uncontested divorce, both spouses must draft and sign a marital separation agreement that denotes the amount and schedule of any child and/or spousal payments that should be made from one spouse to another. These payments typically begin once the divorce is finalized—but a divorce case can take months or upwards of a year, and there may be some immediate financial needs that must be met long before a Final Order is issued.

This is where emergency or temporary alimony comes in. With the proper documentation and case forms, a Court can order your spouse to begin making temporary support payments before your divorce is finalized.

How to petition for temporary spousal support in Virginia

If you need support from your spouse before your divorce is finalized, you can ask the Court for pendente lite (“pending the litigation”) or temporary alimony in the Commonwealth of Virginia. You can also seek other temporary relief in the form of contribution to mortgage payments, child custody, child support, exclusive use of an automobile, and other types of temporary relief as part of an Emergency Petition for Maintenance and Support.

In a pendente lite hearing, both parties present their testimony as well as relevant financial documentation. The judge will then make a ruling regarding temporary support, which will be established as an Order until the divorce case has concluded. Before a Final Order of Divorce is issued, the Court may maintain or modify the level of support provided, then integrate this into a final support arrangement.

Virginia has established guidelines for determining the presumptive level of pendente lite spousal support. These guidelines are based on the difference between a percentage of the payor’s and payee’s incomes.

Because alimony is no longer tax-deductible as a matter of federal law, Virginia modified these percentages to provide for lower presumptive amounts of spousal support, effective July 1, 2020:

  • Cases without minor children: 50% of the payee’s income, minus 27% of the payor’s income.
  • Cases with minor children: 50% of the payee’s income, minus 26% of the payor’s income.

Judges can order periodic payments, lump-sum payments, or order property transfers. You can also request that the Court establish an income deduction order, in which the payor’s employer must deduct the alimony amount from the payor’s paycheck and submit it to the payee. This is a useful solution if you are worried that your spouse will not pay alimony.

Factors that influence spousal support

Although the courts have guidelines regarding pendente lite spousal support, there are several additional factors that could influence the amount you receive, including:

  • Whether the spouses have minor children together.
  • Each party’s financial obligations, needs, and resources.
  • Each party’s financial and non-financial contributions to the family.
  • Each party’s age, physical, and/or mental condition, and any special circumstances that could impact employment.
  • Each party’s earning and employment capacity, including the estimated cost and time for the payee to find sufficient employment.
  • Each party’s property interests and marital property distribution.
  • Whether either party contributed to the other’s education, training, or career growth.
  • Whether the payee’s leaving their career to support their family impacted their future earning potential and ability to find employment.

Do you need help with spousal support or other divorce-related issues? My Legal Case Coach offers the legal forms you need, plus one (1) free hour of virtual 1:1 coaching with an experienced Virginia attorney to help you navigate your case. Schedule a free 15-minute consultation today to learn how we can help you.