VA Spousal Support Calculator
The VaSupportCalc.com project moves ahead! Child support guideline calculations are now available for online users and for Apple and Android phone and tablet users. (See our posts about the start of the project here.)
Our next project is now online: Virginia Pendente Lite Spousal Support. The calculation is relatively simple, but what’s not so simple is understanding the limited role that this calculation has in the world of spousal support in Virginia.
“Pendente lite” is latin for “pending the litigation.” When a divorce case is initially filed, the parties, the lawyers, and the courts know that the divorce litigation is likely to continue for many months (if not years) before it gets to a trial. During that time, it’s long been recognized that some amount of spousal support may be needed to be sure that both parties can survive financially until everything is finally sorted out. So many years ago, when a divorce case was initially filed there would be a hearing on the appropriate amount of support pending the litigation.
Deja Vu: Reducing the Court’s Caseload
Courts realized that the initial trial regarding pendente lite support often sounded pretty much like the later trial that would determine ongoing support. Looking for ways to shed large caseloads, certain courts in Virginia (starting with Fairfax County) implemented formulas to determine pendente lite support, assuming that these calculated amounts would be “close enough” until a more thorough hearing determined the ongoing amount. Ultimately, the Virginia General Assembly applied what was often called the “Fairfax Formula” to all jurisdictions in the Commonwealth.
The “Fairfax Formula”
The formula is actually quite simple. If there are minor children, the amount of support (if any) will be the result of taking 28% of the gross income of the spouse with the higher income and subtracting from it 58% of the gross income of the spouse with the lower income. If there are no minor children, 28% is changed to 30%, and 58% is changed to 50%. The result of the change when there are no minor children is a greater amount of spousal support is awarded, presumably because a parent with minor children would also be receiving child support. For those of you who can visualize the formula better:
- Minor children: 28% x Payor’s Gross Income – 58% x Payee’s Gross Income.
- No minor children: 30% x Payor’s Gross Income – 50% x Payee’s Gross Income.
You can see the entire code section with the calculation at Va. Code Section 16.1-278.17:1.
No Formula For Ongoing Support
That statutory math is the only formula in existence dealing with the amount of spousal support in Virginia. And it was not intended to address the amount of support on an ongoing basis. There is a separate code section that deals with the ongoing amount of support. Part of this statute addresses whether support will be awarded at all. Another part lists the 13 factors that a court needs to take into account to determine how much support to award. Notably, nothing in the list of 14 factors references the pendente lite calculation. To see the entire section with these 13 factors, take a look at Va. Code Section 20-107.1.
However, it is not uncommon for attorneys in their negotiations to refer to the Fairfax Formula as they discuss the appropriateness and amount of spousal support. As with everything we discuss in this blog, it is vital that you check with counsel to understand whether and how this formula applies to your specific situation. But in the meantime, now you can do the calculation.
Stay tuned: the next project for VaSupportCalc.com are apps for Android and iPhones so that these same calculations can be done without being online.
Not Legal Advice
PLEASE consult your attorney to understand when this formula is used and whether the formula would relate at all to your specific circumstances!