Alimony or Spousal Support – Will I pay or get it?
As with most things, there are many misconceptions about alimony or spousal support.
Most common is the thought is that if you catch your spouse in bed with your best friend, at least the alimony issue will be resolved in your favor. Not so! The rule that a finding of adultery bars an award of alimony no longer exists, and fault is only one factor the Court may consider.
Long term Alimony, and to some extent short term, are controlled by approximately 20 factors. Key are the term of the marriage, relative income of the parties, and the health of the parties. Educational and medical insurance needs may be critical, and other factors such as one party postponing an educational opportunity or giving up a well paying job may convince the Court that an alimony award is warranted.
The classic long term alimony case in WV is WV Supreme Court of Appeals Case Molnar v. Molnar 314 S.E.2d 73, 173 W.Va. 200 (W.Va., 1984). The Molnars were married for 35 years before their separation. She had a minimum wage job, and he made at least $100,000 in today’s dollars. Her “rehabilitation plan” was to go to college, taking 10 years to earn a 4 year degree. Her graduation year – at age 63!
The trial court gave her seven years of rehabilitative alimony, but the WV Supreme Court overturned the trial court, saying it was unrealistic to expect Ms. Molnar to start her new career when many people are ready to retire.
Short marriages result in much shorter alimony awards. The key for the spouse in need is to create a “rehabilitation plan” that will let her be in a position to be self supporting in no more than half the time the marriage existed. Thus, seeking a two or four year degree, a vocation, or a recertification will often be considered favorably by the Family Court.
There is no WV “alimony formula” as there is for child support, but there is a Va. formula our Court will consider as part of the argument.
Most courts will not provide a free ticket for a former spouse to sit back and be cared for, so the theory of counsel must be based on common sense and fairness. A large disparity in the incomes helps. And, sometimes one party being more likable than the other is a factor.
Still, I find Family Courts in Central WV generally not strongly disposed to be liberal in the award of alimony or spousal support. But, presenting strong evidence supporting or refuting an alimony claim definitely requires the services of a lawyer!
This post was written by Burton Hunter