While divorce is a legal and formal way to terminate a marriage, spouses’ responsibility to each other doesn’t always end there. Often, the court may order one spouse to help the other establish their life post-divorce in West Virginia through financial support called alimony.
Alimony or spousal support is a periodic payment from one former spouse to another, often following a divorce or legal separation. The paying spouse can make the payments in lump sums or regular installments, and the court can order it to continue for a set period or indefinitely.
Alimony is not automatic after a divorce. One spouse must request it from the court as part of the divorce process, and the other spouse has the opportunity to object to the request. The family law court will consider several factors when making its decision on whether to order alimony payments, including:
- The length of the marriage
- The couple’s standard of living during the marriage
- Each spouse’s earning capacity and employment history
- The age and health of each spouse
- The couple’s childcare arrangements
If the court orders alimony payments, it will also set the amount and duration it would take. These payments repeat until the recipient’s spouse can support themselves or remarries.
Types of alimony
In West Virginia, a court may order two types of alimony: bridge-the-gap and rehabilitative alimony. The purpose of bridge-the-gap alimony is to help a spouse transition from married life to being single. The court typically orders it for a maximum of two years, and spouses cannot have it modified.
In contrast, rehabilitative alimony aims to help a spouse become self-sufficient by providing financial assistance while they retrain or upgrade their skills. Unlike bridge-the-gap alimony, spouses can modify the amount and duration of rehabilitative alimony payments if circumstances change significantly.
If the court orders a spouse to pay alimony, they must do it regardless of their circumstances. Even if the paying spouse goes bankrupt, the court will still require them to fulfill their obligation. Family law court may take failure to make the necessary payments as contempt, which can result in fines or even jail time.